Panthers trying to hash out new contract for OT Gross

Carolina is making a strong push to sign prospective free-agent OT Jordan Gross by Thursday, which would enable the team to then slap its franchise tag on DE Julius Peppers.

The Panthers and Gross have made significant progress on a contract, and some expect a deal to be finalized this week, league sources said Monday night.

If and when a deal is done, it would pay Gross in the neighborhood of $9 million per year, the second-most lucrative contract for an offensive lineman.

The richest deal belongs to Dolphins OT Jake Long, the No. 1 overall pick last year, who signed a five-year, $50 million deal. Prior to Long, former Ravens OT Jonathan Ogden made the most at $8.5 million per year.

Peppers and Gross recently spent time together at the Pro Bowl, but they talked little of their contract situations. Yet they are intertwined.

Peppers said Saturday that he would request a trade should the Panthers use their franchise tag on him.

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