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Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Patriots pass-rush possibilities are slim


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.

As of now, the replacements are uninspiring: Pierre Woods, Tully Banta-Cain, Shawn Crable.

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.