Panthers DE Julius Peppers made a lot of noise throughout the offseason about wanting to leave the team, and even though he was extended a franchise contract tender worth $16.68 million, he still wanted out. There were rumors (and more rumors) about where Peppers would end up, and Peppers maintained he wanted a change of scenery. But those rumors proved to be for naught, and Wednesday Peppers signed that tender, committing to report to training camp and play for the Carolina in 2009. For Peppers, it’s the only move he has left. In the end, he’ll get paid nearly $1 million per week (contracts are divided over 17 regular-season weeks to include the bye), and that money is now guaranteed.
Carolina banked its entire offseason on keeping Peppers. They had to redo QB Jake Delhomme’s deal and have only signed one minor veteran free agent because of the strain the Peppers tender put on its cap. But all that will be worth it for this veteran team if Peppers plays well in ’09 now that they are assured that he’ll play for them.
The Panthers still need to find a long-term solution if they are to keep Peppers in 2010 and beyond, but at least they now know they will have his services this year. The comments out of Peppers’ camp today are conciliatory, which may indicate that Peppers’ desire to leave is softening. If no long-term deal is reached, the Panthers would have to pay more than $20 million to franchise Peppers in 2010, and they also traded their ’10 first-round pick for DE Everette Brown, who is ostensibly Peppers’ replacement. So a move still may be in the offing. (No trade can be made unless Peppers is signed, after all.) But if this is a short-term solution, it’s the right one for both sides, and they can worry about 2010 when it comes. Today, Panthers fans can breathe a sigh of relief – as can Peppers’ accountants.