Midway through the second quarter of Thursday night’s NFL opener between the Packers and Seahawks, NBC’s Cris Collinsworth spilled the beans on a story that never became one.
“Julius Peppers really had never played at outside linebacker. He was getting ready to go to Carolina, thinking he’d just go home and finish his career there,” Collinsworth said. “Then the Green Bay Packers called and said, ‘How’d you like to be a stand-up, 3-4 outside linebacker?’ And he said, ‘I’ve been waiting my whole life to do that.’”
Many Panthers fans who were watching likely rewound their DVRs to make sure they heard correctly, but the fact is, Collinsworth was right. Peppers, a North Carolina native who played eight years in Charlotte, did talk with the Panthers about a reunion when free agency began in March, and the interest was mutual.
Peppers is close with Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson and defensive line coach Eric Washington. Plus, some of the hard feelings built up during Peppers’ final years in Charlotte had dissipated.
The Panthers front office believes a team can never have too many pass rushers, and Peppers could have spelled Johnson and defensive end Greg Hardy. The conversations with Peppers had nothing to do with Hardy’s contract situation. The team’s franchise player was tagged a couple weeks earlier.
While playing outside linebacker may have been intriguing to Peppers, the most-appealing offer the Packers made was financially. A 3-year, $26 million contract was impossible to pass up. So in the end, money spoke.
It’s hard to blame Peppers, but it’s a reminder that even if a team doesn’t make a splash in free agency, that doesn’t mean it didn’t try.