Until he's retired, I suppose, the story will never go away. And maybe not even then.
But last week, sources close to Chicago Bears DE Julius Peppers said the history of his failed negotiations here isn't as the Panthers have presented it.
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Panthers general manager Marty Hurney has said several times recently that they twice offered Peppers deals that would have made him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, and that he believes the decision wasn't driven by money.
According to the source close to Peppers, the timeline of the negotiation went something like this.
-- Shortly after his career-worst 2.5-sack season, the Panthers came to them with a six-year, $73 million offer.
While that would have put him ahead of players such as Jared Allen and Dwight Freeney who were at the 12.0 million per year mark, the narrow margin of that bump was not what he believed he was worth.
At that point, the source said, Peppers mind was reeling after a horrible season, and he wasn't sure what he wanted to do long-term, or where he wanted to do it.
-- That led to the first decision to use the franchise tag on him, even after he loudly asked not to be tagged, saying he felt he had done everything he could here.
Peppers and owner Jerry Richardson met that summer face-to-face over lunch to clear up some differences, and both left that meeting authorizing their representatives (Hurney and agent Carl Carey) to work toward a long-term deal.
Peppers responded with 14.5 sacks in 2008, and after the season, according to the source, the Panthers made a four-year, $48 million offer.
That still put him in line with Allen and Freeney, but was well below what Peppers expected, especially with Oakland CB Nnamdi Asomugha (three-year, $45.3 million) and Washington DT Albert Haynesworth (seven-year, $100 million) signing scale-busitng deals.
Thus rejected, the source said the Panthers came back later with a four-year, $54 million offer, which included 37.5 million in guarantees.
Peppers ultimately played out 2009 under the $16.7 million franchise tag, and when the Panthers announced they weren't going to tag him again, signed a six-year, $91.5 million deal with a reported $42 million in guarantees. Of course, only $20 million of that sum is guaranteed for both skill and injury after the first year.
But Peppers' camp insists that he was willing to return to the Panthers for the right money, considering how much he enjoyed working under defensive coordinator Ron Meeks and line coach Brian Baker.
It's an extremely complicated history, made more complicated by the fact only one side is talking (which keeps it from being a true "he-said, she-said").
The Panthers have steadfastly refused to comment on negotiations, whether with Peppers or anyone.
Would it help them in this instance? Perhaps.
Does that change their stance? It does not.
Does that make this blog a simple recitation of one side's version of the story? Yes.
Take it for what it's worth, and with the knowledge that he's now a Bears, the Panthers are trying to move on, and kickoff's in about five hours.
-- Darin Gantt