Daily Archives: February 19, 2009

Franchise players: Julius Peppers

The deadline for franchise players is 4 p.m. today, and we’ll do a compendium of the guys tagged later on. But probably the biggest name to get tagged so far is Panthers DE Julius Peppers, so we wanted to go ahead and talk about him. You can read on for more on Peppers and see how highly he compares with the other franchise players this year in the mega-franchise players post that we’re updating with all of the franchise players.

DE Julius Peppers, Panthers – The next evolution of man, as Peppers was called by teammates, is an athletic freak. He’s 6-7, a lean 290 pounds, and as quick as most wide receivers. He wants out of Carolina, which runs a 4-3 defense, so that he can play in a 3-4 system as an outside rush linebacker. Peppers could be absolutely devastating in that role because of his athleticism, even though he’s almost too big to stand up and rush. The question is whether he could learn a new system quickly. His instincts aren’t always top-notch. Peppers wants out of Carolina, but the Panthers committed $16.683 million of cap room to him. (Insted of getting the $9 million tag that most defensive ends would, Peppers is guaranteed 20 percent more than his massive 2008 salary-cap figure.) Peppers has been a very good, productive player in Carolina, but for some reason he has stayed half a rung below elite level. Still, Peppers should fetch a trade bounty at least equal to what Jared Allen elicited last year (a first-rounder and two third-rounders). He is the biggest free agent tagged on the market this year, and his impending trade will be one of the biggest moves of the offseason whenever it happens.

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Franchise players: Dunta Robinson

The first cornerback shoe dropped on the franchise player front when the Houston Texans tagged Dunta Robinson. Below are some thoughts on the move; you can see how Robinson compares to other franchise players in terms of ’09 impact in the cumulative franchise player post.

CB Dunta Robinson, Texans — Houston has focused its drafts, at least in the first round, on defense for years now. They’ve had some big hits with Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans, and some misses with Travis Johnson and perhaps Amobi Okoye. Robinson has fought injuries, but when healthy he’s fit more in the hit category. That’s why the Texans have decided to pay nearly $10 million next year to keep Robinson, who has 13 interceptions in his 5-year career. Robinson isn’t an elite corner in the class of Nnamdi Asomugha, but he’s a legit starter. Ideally, the Texans would lock Robinson up long term and save some dollars this year. If Robinson could get a deal like the one Panthers CB Chris Gamble took (6 years, as much as $50 million), he should take it. And you could justify that from the Texans end as well. If this team is going to take the next step, they must keep core players, and Robinson is good enough to be considered part of that core.

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Franchise players: Antonio Bryant

The latest franchise player tag goes is one of the most compelling. The Buccaneers have ensured that WR Antonio Bryant will be with them next year by franchising him and guaranteeing him nearly $10 million in 2009. What are the ramifcations? Read on, and then click on the franchise players mega-post to see how this franchise tag move compares to the others of the offseason.

WR Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers — The Bucs grabbed Bryant off the scrap heap, and he paid huge dividends in 2008 with 83 catches, 1,248 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Those are true No. 1 receiver numbers, and they reflect the way Bryant emerged last year. But that emergence was a long time coming for Bryant. Originally a Cowboy, he bombed out in Dallas after butting heads with Bill Parcells. He played for the Browns for 2 years, notching his first 1,000-yard season, and then played a year for the 49ers before being out of football in ’07. That background plays into this move. The Bucs need Bryant next year, because he’s by far the best receiver they have, and true No. 1 receivers just don’t hit the free-agent market very often. But it has to be a little scary to think about giving Bryant a long-term deal. So while the franchise tag probably represents an overpayment in ’09, it mitigates Tampa Bay’s long-term risk. For that reason, this move was necessary – even if it makes you grit your teeth just a smidge.

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Franchise players: Darren Sproles

A second running back joined the franchise player list when the Chargers tagged Darren Sproles. Again, some thoughts on Sproles are here, and you can see how Sproles compares relative to the other tags of the offseason in the main franchise players post.

RB Darren Sproles, San Diego – Sproles made a name for himself by starring for the Chargers in the playoffs this season. Although he’s tiny, he has superb speed that allows him to bust free as a return man or from the backfield. Sproles probably shouldn’t be a go-to back – I doubt he would hold up for the whole season – but in a Reggie Bush type of role, he can be a game changer more often than not. But is that worth $6.6 million a year? It is to the Chargers as long as they’re not expecting Sproles to replace LaDanian Tomlinson. But if they cut LDT, this move could easily blow up in their faces.

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Franchise players: Terrell Suggs

Another day, another franchise tag, and another second straight one at that. Today it’s Terrell Suggs, who Baltimore franchised for the second year in a row. That guarantees Suggs a little more than $10 million in ’09. Here are some thoughts on Suggs; you can see how he compares to the other franchise players this year in the continuously updated relativity post on the subject.

OLB/Rush DE Terrell Suggs, Ravens – The Ravens enter free agency this offseason in a pickle. Three of their starting linebackers – Suggs, Ray Lewis, and Bart Scott – are entering the market. But Suggs’ skill set is the most irreplaceable. He is a strong pass rusher who fits perfectly in the Ravens’ 3-4 system. Suggs doesn’t get the hype of Demarcus Ware or Shawne Merriman, but he is nonetheless in their class as a rush specialist. The Ravens couldn’t afford to let him go, no matter the franchise price tag.

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