Panthers franchise Peppers after signing Gross

Well, that didn’t take long. Moments after completing a deal for offensive tackle Jordan Gross, the Carolina Panthers designated Julius Peppers as their franchise player, a league source confirmed Thursday. Peppers’ franchise number is $16.683 million, but it is hardly the money that Peppers wants. He wants his freedom, the ability to leave Carolina and go play in a city that would be desirable to him.

Now that the Gross issue is out of the way, the Panthers can focus on resolving the one involving Peppers.

Carolina and Gross reached agreement Thursday on a record six-year contract worth just under $60 million that will pay out $30.5 million in the first three years of the deal, a league source said. The $30.5 million over the deal’s first three years is highest ever for an offensive lineman.

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