Julius Peppers is worth more than a second-round draft pick. But that doesn't mean Carolina will be able to trade Peppers for what he's worth. The market defines worth, as anybody who has recently tried to sell a house will attest.
Sources told Vince Carucci, a columnist for NFL.com, that the Panthers and New England are "likely" to make a trade that would send Peppers to the Patriots for a second-round pick. The Panthers deny it. I was unable to reach anybody in the Peppers camp, a small camp, I must say, to confirm or deny the story.
But it makes sense to me.
If the Panthers retain Peppers, they have to pay him almost $17 million next season. If they do, their disposable income will be disposed of. They will have so little money to spend that it would not be a surprise to drive by Bank of America Stadium and see executives and coaches holding cups in front of signs that say, WILL WORK FOR SALARY CAP SPACE.
The theory to which disgruntled fans cling that Peppers would not be welcome next season in Carolina is false. Management might be perturbed, but they'll take him back. Fans will hold out their adoration until Peppers makes his first sack. Teammates won't care if Peppers wants to play somewhere else. A year from now, one of them could be saying the same thing.
The pick to which Carucci alluded is No. 34 overall. It is a gem of a second-round pick, the second pick of the second round. As deftly as the Panthers have drafted the last two seasons, they certainly will believe they can parlay the pick into first-round talent. The Panthers also have a second-round pick of their own, but it comes 25 picks after New England's.
Will New England interest Peppers? The Patriots play a 3-4 defense, but the idea that he craves a 3-4 is overrated. He wants to live in a different city and experience different things. Perhaps Boston is that city.
The Panthers deny the validity of Carucci's report. But he didn't make up the story. Somebody leaked it. Somebody who wanted the story leaked.