It appears that 29 years in his home state was enough for Julius Peppers.
The Carolina Panthers defensive end and native son said Saturday via his agent he was ready to leave for another team.
His agent, Carl Carey, said Saturday morning in a statement to ESPN that Peppers had decided he wanted to move on from the Panthers, who chose him with the second overall pick in the 2002 draft.
The Panthers still retain the right to franchise Peppers, possibly keeping him for one year at a cost of $17 million. However, Peppers would prefer to be traded, and if the Panthers are able to work out a deal, they’d be forced to find pass-rush help that way.
Last year, Kansas City went through a similar situation, franchising defensive end Jared Allen, before swinging a deal with Minnesota that brought back a first-rounder (17th overall) and two thirds.
"The front office has been informed of my desire to explore opportunities with other NFL teams following the expiration of my contract next month,” Peppers said in a statement released by Carey. “At this point in my NFL career, I am seeking new challenges that will allow me to grow, develop and reach my personal potential on the football field.
“I strongly feel that making a move at this time is in my best interest. I appreciate the entire Panthers organization and am thankful for the seven seasons I’ve spent with the team.”
In seven seasons, all with the Panthers, he’s notched 70.5 sacks, and was just elected to his fourth Pro Bowl after a bounce-back season. After a disastrous 2007 campaign in which he recorded just 2.5 sacks, he came back with 14.5 this season.
But before he was able to leave for the offseason, his statements made it clear he wanted out.
“Ideally, I want to be in the best situation possible for myself and this organization,” he said. “I’m thankful for everything they’ve done for me, and I don’t want to leave them crippled or in a bad situation, and I don’t want to do that to myself either.
“Whatever works out best for both sides is what I’m comfortable with.”
The Panthers never wavered in their public support for Peppers. Even after those vague statements, coach John Fox was clear in his preference for the future, hoping that he’d stay.
“Julius, who I have the utmost respect for, he’s a private person,” Panthers coach John Fox said. “He’s a different person than other people. It’s a process, and he’s fairly private with the process. I’ll leave it at that. I’ve got no complaints with Julius. I’ve got no questions of his commitment. It’s the business part of it and it’s a process. I think he did a great job of focusing on football this year and not letting anybody from the outside make it a distraction, and I have a lot of respect for that.”