Carolina Panthers

Panthers look to sign Peppers

SPARTANBURG -- There's a strong chance that in the next year, Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers will become the highest-paid defensive player in league history.

If that moves him, it's hard to tell.

Peppers was asked Monday how important it was to get his contract status resolved. He's under contract through 2008, and while the two sides have talked, there seems to be nothing imminent.

"I've got two more years under contract. That's not even really a big deal right now," Peppers said.

When asked about the possibility of his deal eclipsing all others, he dead-panned, "That's something I haven't really thought about either. If it happens, it happens. If not, if not."

Indianapolis defensive end Dwight Freeney set the bar for top-level ends, signing a six-year, $72 million deal with $30 million guaranteed. But Peppers said in an e-mail this spring that he didn't consider Freeney a comparable player, "because I see myself as a complete defensive end and not just a pass-rusher."

"I'm not really concerned with what anybody else is getting or what I may get, because I don't have it," Peppers said.

Teammate Mike Rucker laughed when asked what Peppers was worth.

"The sky's the limit," Rucker said. "He's very important and I think time will tell."

While Peppers could be an unrestricted free agent after 2008, there are no indications it's going to reach that point. Owner Jerry Richardson has made it clear he sees Peppers as the future of his franchise.

"It's not an issue right now," Peppers said when asked if he thought a deal would be reached. "And I don't think it will be one."

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