Belichick: Deal for Peppers will need signature, time

(Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

A whole lot has been said and written about a story I posted on this site Monday regarding a likely trade that would send Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers to New England in exchange for a second-round draft pick. On Thursday, two prominent voices joined the conversation: Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Peppers’ agent, Carl Carey.

After hearing Belichick during an interview on Boston radio station WEEI and reading comments from Carey posted a short while later on the Boston Herald’s website, I got the impression that if anything does happen between the Patriots and Panthers, it will take every bit of the month-plus time frame I mentioned in the piece: at some point between the league meetings, which begin Sunday, and the April 25 draft.

After giving WEEI’s Glenn Ordway the technical explanation of why there couldn’t be any trade talks between the Patriots and Panthers — because Peppers has yet to sign his franchise-tender agreement with Carolina and, therefore, the Panthers aren’t allowed to discuss a deal with any team — Belichick did say, “There’s a lot of moving parts in a situation like this. There’s a lot of things that have to be worked out and, in all honesty, when you’re talking about that level of player, that level of contract, those different levels of commitment, it’s usually not the kind of thing that happens in 10 or 15 minutes. Those things can take a long time and they can tie up a lot of time, money and resources and they may or may not ever get done.”

Carey told the Herald’s Karen Guregian, “We’re not in a position where we have to act hastily.”

Although the teams can’t talk trade until Peppers signs the one-year tender with Carolina, his agent can broker a contract with another team that he then could take back to the Panthers. Belichick never mentioned on WEEI whether he or anyone else from the Patriots has spoken with Carey about Peppers. However, Carey told Guregian that he has not heard from the Pats, even though he has had “preliminary discussions with GMs from other clubs in the league.”

Either way, Belichick made it pretty clear that he’d prefer to avoid that path to a trade. In fact, you got the distinct feeling Belichick was trying to send a message to Peppers and his agent to sign the $16.68 million tender with the Panthers because it would actually help the trade process along . That logic makes sense, because the Pats would then be in the position to communicate directly with the Panthers about the terms of the trade. I continue to hear from league sources that Carolina would accept trading Peppers for the second-round pick New England acquired for Matt Cassel (34th overall). That is all the Pats would be willing to give up for a player with a one-year contract, while also having discussions with Carey about working out a longer-term deal that would satisfy his client and fit New England’s pay structure.

“I don’t think that’s a good way to do business,” Belichick said to WEEI about an agent-brokered transaction. “I personally would not do it that way. I think if a player wants to be traded or wants to be in a position where he could be traded, then the best thing for that player to do is do what Matt Cassel did — sign the tender, be under contract, and then go to the team and say, ’Okay, I don’t want to be here, trade me, this is where I want to go.’”

If Peppers wants to go to New England, there is every reason to believe he’d be welcome (Belichick said Peppers would have no problem converting from a 4-3 end to an outside linebacker in the Patriots’ 3-4 scheme). But given the complexities of working out a contract that is acceptable to him and fits the Pats’ pay structure and also working out the actual trade agreement with the Panthers, it is clearly going to take a while for him to get there … if he ever does.

Vic Carucci

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