During two Radio Row segments in the 7:00 a.m. ET hour with our good friend Todd Wright of Sporting News Radio, Todd and I talked about the status of Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers.
With the Panthers now snubbing Peppers and his agent, Peppers likely won’t be slapped with the franchise tag again — and thus he’s destined to be an unrestricted free agent as of March 5.
So he’ll get a $100 million contract, like defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth finagled a year ago, right?
Maybe not. Though it only takes one team to ridiculously overpay a guy, the potential competition for Peppers’ services necessarily is reduced by 25 percent, thanks to the so-called final eight plan.
As we’ve previously discussed, it’s one of the tweaks of the uncapped year, aimed at maintaining competitive balance. The teams that advance to the divisional round face restrictions on their ability to sign unrestricted free agents. Most notably, a “final eight” team cannot sign an unrestricted free agent to a big-money deal unless and until the final eight team loses one of its own unrestricted free agents to a big-money deal.
Specifically, a “replacement” free agent’s first-year salary may not exceed the first-year salary received by the unrestricted free agent who has left the final-eight team. After year one, limitations apply on the growth of the deal.
As a practical matter, this removes the Saints, Colts, Vikings, Jets, Cowboys, Cardinals, Chargers, and Ravens from the 12:01 a.m. ET bidding for Peppers’ services, since none of those teams will be losing an unrestricted free agent via a contract that will be remotely close to the ballpark in which Peppers hopes to operate.
So only 24 teams will be in the running for Peppers. And with the Panthers no longer trying to keep him, the maximum market has dipped even lower, to 23.
Factor in the reality that Peppers has a reputation for periodically disappearing in games, and plenty of those 23 teams will opt to spend their money elsewhere, limiting even further the leverage that Peppers ultimately will enjoy.
That said, it takes only one team to blow the lid off the market. But the dynamics will be very different in 2010 than they have been in past years. There’s a good chance, then, that Peppers won’t get a Haynesworth-style deal.
But it’s hard to envision Peppers feeling like he’s had salt poured in a wound (man, I’ve been waiting eight years to use that one). After all, the guy made more than $18 million in 2009.