Peppers and Gross
With their season ending earlier than some expected, the Carolina Panthers will now have to turn their attention toward retaining two key players for 2009 and beyond. Offensive tackle Jordan Gross and defensive end Julius Peppers are both free agents and it may be difficult for the team to fit both under their salary cap without serious pruning elsewhere on the roster.
The Panthers are $10 million under the cap for 2009, which wouldn’t be enough to sign both men. A franchise tender to Peppers would cost in the neighborhood of $17 million and a long-term deal would average around $13 million, according to a report from the Charlotte Observer. The same report indicates that the team and Peppers’s agent Carl Carey are negotiating a deal. When asked about his desire to stay with the Panthers after last night’s game, Peppers said he wanted to make the “best decision for myself and for the Panthers’ organization.”
One way the Panthers could clear cap space would be cutting ties with Jake Delhomme, a move that probably became more likely after his six turnovers against the Cardinals. Adam Schefter reports that they’d save $6.325 million if they released the quarterback, a number that may prove too big to pass up.
UPDATE: As a reader points out, the franchise number for defensive ends quoted by the Observer seems out of whack. It was $8.879 million when Terrell Suggs was trying to be designated a defensive end last season. Peppers’ $14,137,500 was the highest cap figure for defensive ends in 2008, according to USA Today, which makes $17 million seem high indeed.
SECOND UPDATE: Actually, the $17 million isn’t out of whack. The franchise tender is the average of the top five cap figures or 120% of his previous cap figure, whichever is more. Peppers, at $14 million-plus is in the latter category.