Monday, April 6, 2009

The Curious Case of Julius Peppers

I know this is a little off topic but it's something I believe is extremely interesting. The New England Patriots of the NFL have expressed interest and are very serious about acquiring one of the best Defensive Ends in the NFL. Julius Peppers, at 6'7, is one of the tallest players in the league. With the Panthers, Peppers played Defensive End in a 4-3 defense. This offseason Peppers has come out and said that he wants to play Outside LineBacker, in a 3-4 defense. OLB in the 3-4 is practically the equivalent of a DE in th 4-3, meaning they basically play the same roles. The issue is that you'll be hard pressed to find a 3-4 OLB not between the heights of 6'3 and 6'5. Peppers is a whopping 6'7. The OLB has to be fast, athletic and good in pass coverage as well as being a very good pass rusher. The good news for Peppers is that we know that he possesses three of these four qualities. The problem is, he is unproven in pass coverage, for he has never played a position where he's needed that skill.

So why is this story so intriguing? Because this offseason Peppers was a free agent and in the NFL teams have the option of paying a premium in order to keep their top players, this option is called a Franchise Tag. Therefore, the Panthers signed Peppers to a Franchise Tag. This tag is a one year deal where you are paid the average salary of the top five highest paid players at your position. If your salary from the previous season is higher than the average top five salaries at your position then you get a 20% raise instead. Julius Peppers this offseason was franchise tagged, and given the average pay of the top five DEs in the NFL. Thus, he is signed for the next season at the average rate. Or is he?

Julius Peppers did not want to be franchise tagged because he could get more money and security via free agency. Therefore Peppers is holding out of training camp and sending a message to the Panthers front office that he wants out. There have been rumors surrounding Peppers being traded to the Patriots for a second round draft pick. The reason being traded to the Patriots is significant is because Peppers would then get his wish of playing 3-4 OLB. What does this mean for Peppers' contract(franchise designation) if he does not sign a new pact and he's traded to the Pats? Does the Franchise Tag allow for modifications when a player switches positions? These are all unanswered questions.

Therefore if Peppers would to be traded to the Patriots, would his franchise tender act as a regular contract and thus it wouldn't matter if he switches positions, or would he have to sign a new franchise tender? Would his contract automatically terminate and the Patriots would have until a certain time to sign Peppers and if they do not he would become a free agent? Or would the Patriots have to sign him to an extension in order to complete this deal?

I do not have the answer to any of these question and are therefore wondering what would happen under such a scenario. I also wonder if the NFL has a rule regarding these types of predicaments or if something like this ever happened before. And if it has, how the NFL sorted the issue out. It is a complex situation because of all its components. A player switching positions has no obstacles standing in his way. Same as making a trade. And also for designating a player as your franchise player. An issue only arises when you combine these three elements into one compound.