Monday, March 16, 2009

Pats seeking Peppers

A busy offseason for the Patriots could get kicked up another notch.

According to numerous sources, first reported by's Vic Carucci, the Patriots are in the midst of negotiating a deal with the Carolina Panthers that would send a second-round pick to Charlotte for star defensive end Julius Peppers.

The career sacks leader for Carolina, Peppers has expressed a desire to both become an outside linebacker, and do so with another team besides the Panthers. Both truths are apparently music to the ears of Bill Belichick and Co., as the Patriots are short at the linebacker position, and adding the four-time Pro Bowler would be an instant upgrade.

The news is also the latest in a startling turnaround for the Patriots financially. New England began the offseason almost at the $123 million salary cap figure, but shed Matt Cassel's $14 million franchise tag number and Mike Vrabel's $3.15 million salary in a trade with Kansas City (more on that later) at the start of free agency, while also releasing Rodney Harrison ($3.05 million), Jabar Gaffney ($2 million) and Rosevelt Colvin.

With the breathing room, the Patriots went to work. They signed Jaguars castoff Fred Taylor and former Jet Chris Baker at the start of the free agency period, while also acquiring wideout Greg Lewis from Philadelphia. New England upgraded the secondary by signing former Pro Bowler Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden to fill the weak cornerback positions, and also added a deep threat in four-time Pro Bowl alternate Joey Galloway. New England capped off the shopping spree by luring back defensive end Mike Wright.

But with the Julius Peppers talk swirling around, the Patriots might be ready to make the biggest offseason move since acquiring Randy Moss in April of 2007. The trade would happen a few days or weeks into the future, but it also brings us back to the past - the trade of Cassel and Vrabel, specifically.

For months, it was out in the open that Cassel would be traded. The question focused on what the Patriots would get in return. Some pundits felt a first-round pick was a fair asking price, others said a second-round pick was more appropriate.

But when the Pats gave up Cassel AND Vrabel for that second-round pick, the reaction was mostly negative. A second-round pick was nowhere near enough to get for a potential franchise quarterback and a high-quality linebacker.

Well now, we see New England's logic.

A second-round pick is easier, financially, to sign than a first-rounder. The Panthers have said they'd be "happy" with a second-round pick for Peppers, for that reason.

Where did that second-round pick, the one that could be dealt to Carolina for Peppers, come from? Kansas City.

In typical, clandestine Patriots fashion, a deal deemed unsatisfactory by many could result in the greatest catch yet.

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