Panthers, Peppers not likely to strike long-term deal

There is very little chance that the Panthers and DE Julius Peppers will beat today’s 4 p.m. deadline for¬†franchise-tagged players to sign long-term contracts, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Both sides were open to a new deal — one that would keep the Panthers’ 2002 first-round draft pick with the team for the duration of his career — but they weren’t able to bridge the gap after weeks of negotiations.

Peppers will cost Carolina $17 million this coming season — eating up a large chunk of salary-cap space — and could end up costing $20 million if he hits incentives. The Pro Bowler, who’s one of the league’s best sack men, would cost at least $20 million in 2010 should he receive the franchise tag again (which, in that case, would translate to essentially the $40 million that Pro Bowl LB Terrell Suggs will receive in 2009 and 2010 in the new deal he¬†signed with the Ravens earlier today).

The Peppers-Panthers talks were cordial, but it remains to be seen if it becomes more difficult to get a long-term deal done after this season, given his tag figure.

The league’s economic climate might be better focused a year from now, though. A failure to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement by the start of the 2010 league year would result in an uncapped 2010 season.

– Jason La Canfora

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