Panthers will wait in draft
CHARLOTTE ó The Carolina Panthers haven’t signed one player from another team in free agency. Now they’re set to be the last team to make a selection in the NFL draft.
Julius Peppers is the reason for the free-agency blackout. The four-time Pro Bowl defensive end could also make the first day of the draft not so boring for the Panthers after all.
Peppers wants to play elsewhere and hasn’t signed his one-year, $16.7 million tender under the franchise tag. But that whopping salary counts against the salary cap, leaving the Panthers unable to fill needs on both lines and the secondary through free agency.
Trouble is, it’ll be difficult for the defending NFC South champions to make up ground in the draft because they’re without a first-round pick. They traded it to Philadelphia last year for the 19th selection, which became starting right tackle Jeff Otah.
The Panthers first pick is late in the second round, 59th overall. Some folks will be sleeping by the time the Panthers finally go on the clock late Saturday night.
The solution is a trade. Just like last year when Kansas City sent franchise defensive end Jared Allen to Minnesota for a first-round pick and two third-round choices, trading Peppers could net a first-rounder and clear loads of cap space.
It just won’t be easy.
Because Peppers hasn’t signed his tender, only agent Carl Carey can negotiate with other teams. Clubs could either sign Peppers to an offer sheet and give Carolina two first-round picks ó highly unlikely ó or broker a deal for less with Carey and have him come to the Panthers for approval.
Carey hasn’t returned messages in weeks after engineering an early public campaign that included Peppers insisting he had “maxed out” in Carolina. Panthers general manager Marty Hurney hasn’t wavered from believing either Peppers will return and not hold out or they’ll accept two first-round picks after he signs offer sheet with another team.
“Our stance hasn’t changed,” Hurney said.
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