CHARLOTTE – With the NFL draft less than 24 hours away, the Carolina Panthers have not received a single trade offer for franchise defensive end Julius Peppers according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.
That doesn't mean things can't change between now and the start of the NFL draft at 4 p.m. Saturday, but right now there's nothing brewing.
If everything remains status quo, the Carolina Panthers will make their first pick (59th overall) Saturday night around 9:30. Of course, betting on status quo is a risky proposition when it comes to Carolina’s front office.
After all, Panthers general manager Marty Hurney and coach John Fox have earned a reputation as movers and shakers on draft day, you know, crazy gambler types like Phil Ivey and Phil Hellmuth. Two years ago, they traded down 11 spots in the first round to No. 25 to pick up extra draft picks. Last year, they changed strategies, moving up from the second round to the first round. Will they pull off something similar -- or unexpected -- this year?
After all, the Panthers have earned a reputation as movers and shakers on draft day. Two years ago, they traded down 11 spots in the first round to No. 25 to pick up extra draft picks. Last year, they traded again, this time switching gears and moving up from the second round to the first round.
Will they pull off something similar this year?
That remains to be seen, but any move the Panthers make could be tied to Peppers, who has emphatically stated he wants out of Charlotte. The Panthers, who have only five draft picks, probably wouldn't mind having a few more.
Saturday, in all likelihood, is the final day to trade Peppers given the team would want high draft picks in return and the fact the first two rounds of the draft will be over with by Sunday.
Because Peppers hasn’t signed his franchise tender, the Panthers can entertain trade offers but can’t seek one out. That’s all up to Peppers’ agent, Carl Carey. However, Carey has not approached the Panthers with an offer from another team.
The problem is a lot has to happen for a trade to work, not the least of which is Peppers agreeing to a new contract with another team and the Panthers agreeing on reasonable compensation in return for the four-time Pro Bowler.
If Peppers were to be traded a bar has been set in terms of compensation. In 2008, Kansas City dealt franchised defensive end Jared Allen to Minnesota for a first-round draft pick and a pair of thirds.
But that could change with one phone call.
Among the teams that could prove to be potential destinations for Peppers include New England, Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore and Green Bay.
Peppers has averaged more than 10 sacks per season since coming into the league as the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft, and has said he’d prefer to play for a team that runs the 3-4 defense.
If the Panthers are able to unload Peppers – and his $16.7 million contract – it would free up an abundance of cap space, but leave a gaping hole at defensive end and create an immediate need in the NFL draft.
If the Panthers decide to keep Peppers -- or simply don’t get any attractive trade offers -- and stand pat at No. 59, then they’re expected to look at focus on a defensive lineman, offensive lineman or a cornerback with that pick. Wide receiver could be a wild card here too given Muhsin Muhammad’s age (36) and Dwayne Jarrett’s slow development.
Among the offensive linemen who could be available at No. 59 include center Max Unger from Oregon and guard Duke Robinson and tackle Phil Loadholt from Oklahoma.
Some of the intriguing defensive end possibilities include Utah’s Paul Kruger, Cincinnati’s Connor Barwin or Georgia Tech’s Michael Johnson, although all three could be gone before No. 59. If the Panthers look inside, some of the top defensive tackle options might be USC’s Fili Moala, Auburn’s Sen'Derrick Marks or LSU’s Ricky-Jean Francois.
At cornerback, some of the players that might intrigue the Panthers include Utah’s Sean Smith, Oregon's Jairus Byrd, Vanderbilt's D.J. Moore and Ohio State’s Donald Washington.
The Panthers have one pick on Saturday and four picks on Sunday.