Peppers ready to part with Panthers

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Any hope that Carolina had of signing Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers to a long-term contract extension is being sacked.

Peppers’ agent, Carl Carey, said this weekend that his client will not sign a long-term deal with the Panthers this offseason — or ever — and that his client prefers to move on to a team for which he can make the leap from great player to elite one. The Panthers are aware of Peppers’ demands, and they want him to remain in Carolina for the remainder of his career.

Peppers’ contract expired after the 2008 season, and he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when the signing period opens Feb. 27.

“He feels strongly that he needs to make a change to make that leap,” Carey said of Peppers, who turns 29 on Sunday.

Peppers prefers to play with a new team, in a new city, perhaps one that uses a 3-4 scheme that would better serve his skills.

Now, part of the mystery surrounding Peppers’ future in Carolina has been solved: There does not seem to be much of one.

This leaves Carolina in a dilemma. It still can slap its franchise tag on Peppers, but there is a risk the defensive end will not sign it, and the Panthers will have $16.7 million counting against their salary cap. Plus, Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross also is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, and Carolina cannot slap a franchise tag on both players.

It’s one or the other, and Peppers does not want to stay.

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