From an NFL fan’s perspective, there is one great thing about an uncapped year. Your favorite team can’t use the excuse, “We’d love to sign that free agent but we just can’t fit him under the salary cap.”
So to the members of Falcon nation, I present to you possibly the first name on the Falcons’ offseason shopping list: Julius Peppers.
Yes, it could happen — at least the part about Peppers’ availability. There are strong indications that the Carolina Panthers — who failed to come to terms with Peppers on a multi-year contract last season and were forced to sign him to the steep one-year franchise tag fee of $16.683 million — will allow Peppers to enter free agency.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter already is speculating that, “Carolina’s division rival Atlanta Falcons would be a logical landing spot, as Peppers would get to play the Panthers twice a season.”
Let’s examine all of the obvious reasons why the Falcons’ pursuit of Peppers makes sense.
♦ 1. While Peppers would be a significant investment — and there’s really no way to predict what he would fetch on the open market –he would be a huge boost to the Falcons’ anemic pass rush. The perennial Pro Bowl defensive end has 25 sacks over the last two years alone. This season, he recorded five forced fumbles, five passes defensed and two interceptions with 10 1/2 sacks.
♦ 2. The Falcons had to be concerned about John Abraham’s lack of production this season. He dropped from 16.5 sacks in 2008 to 5.5 in 2009. While some of that can be attributed to other problems on the line, including an injury to rookie Peria Jerry, there were several games when Abraham seemed invisible. The Falcons need to do something to create more pressure. For what it’s worth, Abraham has two years left on a six-year, $45 million contract.
♦ 3. The signing of an impact defensive lineman would allow the Falcons to focus on other areas early in the draft, including outside linebacker and cornerback.
♦ 4. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has made significant veteran acquisitions prior to each of his first two seasons: running back Michael Turner two years ago and tight end Tony Gonzalez this season. It might be time for a big move on defense this time.
♦ 5. Falcons owner Arthur Blank never has shied away from spending money on his football team. If Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith believe Peppers will take the Falcons to the next level, he’ll support the move financially.
Question: Are you feeling how the signing of Peppers could impact the Falcons as much as I am?