News out of Charlotte today is that Julius Peppers says he doesn’t want to play for the Carolina Panthers because he has been ignored this offseason. (Peppers gave a radio interview, and his answer to one question prompted the usually straight-down-the-middle Associated Press to describe it as “rambling.”) Speculation has already suggested that Flowery Branch could/should be Peppers’ next place of employment. I have one word for this:
The word is “no.”
The Falcons need a pass rusher. Peppers rushes the passer — sometimes. He had 2 1/2 sacks in 2007. He had 14 1/2 in 2008. He had 10 1/2 last season in what was a contract year. Of those 10 1/2, six came against Washington, Buffalo and Tampa Bay. He had no sacks in four games against New Orleans and Atlanta.
There are times when you watch the Panthers and you think Peppers is Deacon Jones. Other times you think he has come down with the deacon blues. (Steely Dan reference.) Put simply, he doesn’t seem to play hard all the time. And the one thing the Falcons want from all their players — and the chief criterion regarding all future acquisitions, be they free agents or draftees — is this: Do they play hard every single down?
The Falcons would be better served sticking with John Abraham, who’s coming off an uninspiring season but who’s facing a contract year himself, and trying to find a pass rusher in the draft. Peppers is going to want the moon and the stars for a new contract — he made $16.7 million last season — and he’s not worth half that. He’s a good player who sometimes does great things but who didn’t exactly lift the Panthers, who had to win their final three games to reach .500, to great heights.
And he’s a whiner. He tried to leave after last season but the Panthers stuck him with the “franchise player” tag. He lobbied to oust defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac, and Trgovac indeed left. Now he’s saying the Panthers aren’t paying enough attention to him. From the radio interview: “How can you say you want to be somewhere when you’re not really sure if they want you there because they’re not even talking to you?”
The two words most apt to chill any conversation with the Falcons’ new brass are these: DeAngelo Hall. Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith want no prima donnas in their organization, and Peppers has those tendencies. The good plays he’d make wouldn’t be worth the trouble of coddling his ego. Besides that, he’s 30. How many pass rushers stay good at age 32, 33, 34? (Abraham is 31, you should know.)
And it’s not as if the Falcons have to do anything rash. From Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com, assessing the Saints’ chances to repeat as Super Bowl champs:
“The Falcons have a quarterback in Matt Ryan and big-time targets in Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. They remind me a bit of the 2008 Saints — all offense and not enough defense. You can bet that the Falcons are going to work to improve that defense in 2010. If the Falcons can improve half as much on defense as this season’s Saints, anything becomes possible.”
The belief here is that Dimitroff can find enough defensive aid in this draft and perhaps free agency — and don’t forget the return of Peria Jerry and William Moore, neither of whom did much of anything as rookies due to injury — to lift the 2010 Falcons to the postseason. The belief here is that Peppers shouldn’t be needed or wanted in Flowery Branch. The MeAngelo days are done, thank goodness.