Sources raise red flags on Peppers

We’ve devoted much of this space recently to speculating on the future of Julius Peppers. If, but more likely when, Peppers becomes an unrestricted free agent on March 5, he’ll be the prize of what many consider a thin unrestricted free-agent class.

As for Peppers’ still-undecided future, NFL.com analyst Pat Kirwan suggested earlier this week the Patriots remain the team most likely to land the five-time Pro Bowler. NFL.com senior columnist Vic Carucci followed that by reporting the Patriots “remain very interested” in acquiring Peppers. It was last year that Carucci first broke the Patriots’ interest in Peppers, when the team was primed to trade for him after he signed a one-year contract under the franchise tag.

As Peppers gets closer to hitting the market, however, red flags are surfacing over his passion for football.

“I wouldn’t touch him, for that money and what he gives you,” an ex-Panthers personnel man told The Boston Globe. “On the field, he’s a freak athletically, but it’s whether he shows up or not. He’ll go two and three games and do nothing but take up space. Then he’ll have two sacks, a forced fumble, a pick, and change the game. And that’s the danger. He can mesmerize you, but it’s not consistent.”

That source wasn’t alone in questioning Peppers.

“He could end up costing some personnel guy his job,’’ said an AFC scout with extensive experience evaluating Peppers. “I’m terrified of him. In my heart of hearts, I believe that if you pay this guy, I don’t think you’ll see a double-digit sack [season] again the rest of his career.”

The Globe’s Albert R. Greer also spoke to Peppers’ former Panthers teammates Brentson Buckner and Mike Rucker, who marvel at his talent but wonder if he lacks desire.

Carucci also notes the Eagles and Giants have been floated as having possible interest. But whether Peppers hits the open market as an unrestricted free agent or the Panthers apply the franchise tag and attempt to trade him — an expensive risk to take, although it would allow teams restricted by the “final eight rule” to strike a deal — Peppers is looking at a very big pay day.

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