Peppers has a say in his long-term future

There is yet another wrinkle to introduce into the Julius Peppers-Carolina Panthers saga.

Any team that trades for the Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end will have to satisfy not only Carolina but Peppers as well.

Peppers has a select list of teams that he wants to play for this season. He has vowed to those who know him best that he will not, under any circumstance, sign a long-term deal for a team that is not on his wish list.

And this is not about money, either. If it were, Peppers already would have signed the Panthers’ contract proposal, which would have made him the richest defensive player in NFL history. Peppers rejected that offer and opportunity before last season kicked off.

Consistent with his comments Saturday and true to his word, Peppers is not viewing this as a financial move but a career move –- to a place he wants to be, to a defense that appeals to him, to an organization he wants to be around.

Now, while Carolina races the clock to re-sign offensive tackle Jordan Gross so it can slap its lone franchise tag on Peppers, the Panthers could be racing themselves. Gross’ contract could wind up having little bearing on Peppers’ next landing spot.

Even though Carolina might have the first say about where to trade Peppers, it will not have the final say. Peppers also plans to have a say in where he plays the 2009 season and beyond.

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