Mailbag: Carolina Panthers edition

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

I'm playing catch-up on the mailbag today because the start of free agency and some other circumstances beyond my control got in the way of answering some great questions that date back to the end of last week. Some of those questions have been answered by what teams have done in the meantime, and I apologize for not getting to them.

But a lot of the questions still are fresh, so I'll dive into them. I'll start (randomly) with the Carolina Panthers.

Jp in parts unknown writes: What is really up with Pep? I am the frist to admit if you want to leave then by all means ... leave. I have left a job to change locations. It's not an issue of loyality, I just haven't heard why Pep want's to leave. Any Ideas? Espically when they offered all the money he could hope for last year... what's going on?
Pat Yasinskas: I wish I could give you a definitive answer on why Julius Peppers wants out of Carolina. But that's impossible to do because Peppers has been very vague about the reasoning behind all this. You can read between the lines all you want, but, until Peppers comes out and says exactly why he's unhappy, which I doubt will ever happen, we can only speculate. The bottom line is he clearly wants out and that puts the Panthers in a tough spot. They've said all along they intend to keep Peppers and they look like they're prepared to keep playing hardball. My guess is if they end up trading Peppers it would most likely happen somewhere around the time of the draft. Stay tuned on this one.

KRDarby in South Carolina writes: Yeah, its me again. Today's a slow work day. Anyway, should the Panthers consider signing DE Taylor from the Skins now that they have released him, as a replacement for Peppers?
Pat Yasinskas: Not a bad idea. Jason Taylor is a great pass-rusher and the Panthers could use some help in that area if Peppers does leave. At this point in his career and in Carolina's scheme, I don't know that Taylor could be an every-down player. But he could rotate in as a pass-rush specialist. I think that's at least something to consider, but Taylor still may command more of a price than the Panthers are willing to pay.

Brian in Shelby, N.C., writes: Pat, can you comment on any of these trade rumors surrounding the Panthers and Julius Peppers possibly going to New England??
Pat Yasinskas: At this point, that is totally just a rumor. But, sometimes, where there's smoke, there's fire. Keep an eye on it. Like I said earlier, I think the Peppers situation could heat up around draft time.

Alex in DC writes: Pat - Reports are that Jake Delhomme's cap figure is around $11 mil in 2009, which is also the last year of his contract with the Panthers. Extending him for a year or two seemed like a no-brainer way to trim a lot of space. Does no extension signal the end of the Delhomme era in Carolina?
Pat Yasinskas: No, I think an extension still could happen. Even if it doesn't happen before the season, a fast start by Jake Delhomme could make it happen. By the same token, a slow start could prompt the Panthers to let the contract run out.

Mike in Charlotte writes: Clarify if I am wrong...the Panthers did get destroyed in the Playoffs this year???? and yet not a blip out of their camp to improve this team!!!!
Pat Yasinskas: Yep, the Panthers have been extraordinarily quiet. But general manager Marty Hurney and coach John Fox have shown (at times) in the past that they can be very cautious and deliberate. Their hands are tied a bit by the salary cap this year, but they know they have some needs to fill. I think they're basically sitting out the first wave of free agency. But I expect them to jump in after price tags start to drop. You probably won't see big names, but there will be a flurry of activity for mid-level guys once the market settles a bit.