Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Jason Taylor? Signed.
Greg Ellis? Signed.
Julius Peppers? Signed.
The list of pass-rushers linked to the New England Patriots looks thinner than Manute Bol in a girdle.
Peppers finally signed his one-year franchise tender Wednesday for the Carolina Panthers. On a conference call, Panthers general manager Marty Hurney told reporters this isn't the first step to a sign-and-trade deal. Hurney said they intend to keep Peppers.
"We want Julius Peppers here," Hurney said. "This one-year contract was signed with the intention of him coming to training camp on Aug. 2 with the Carolina Panthers."
NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas breaks down why Peppers probably will remain a Panther.
But speculation was rampant before the draft that the Patriots were on the verge of trading for Peppers. It sounded like a formality. Peppers had announced his desire to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. The Patriots happen to be a 3-4 team and haven't brought in a proven veteran to replace Mike Vrabel.
The Patriots aren't convinced. Owner Robert Kraft twice made public statements that Taylor had a Gillette Stadium locker waiting for him, and the Dallas Morning News reported last week the Patriots offered Ellis a contract.
So what big names are left to wonder about?
Oakland Raiders defensive end Derrick Burgess is the most notable possibility. The two-time Pro Bowler doesn't like his contract. He has skipped voluntary workouts. He showed up for mandatory minicamp but sat out with a tummy ache.
Ellis, who the Raiders signed to a three-year deal nine days ago, has been playing in Burgess' spot at left defensive end.