Peppers says he's seeking right fit

February, 23, 2010
2/23/10
3:25
PM ET
The Charlotte Observer has a statement from Julius Peppers in which the defensive end says his goal is to find the right match for his skill set.

At various times in the last year, Peppers and his agent have implied that he wasn’t able to reach his full potential with the Carolina Panthers. That’s no longer an issue because the Panthers announced earlier Tuesday they will not use the franchise tag on Peppers. That means he’ll become a free agent on March 5.

There is no denying Peppers’ skill set is fantastic. He could be a pass rusher in a 4-3 or 3-4 front and the Panthers even have used him on offense a few times throughout the years.

So what teams are likely to come after Peppers? There have been rumblings, mostly from fans with big dreams, about New England, Philadelphia, Dallas and even Oakland. I wouldn’t rule anything out because it only takes one team to make something happen.

But I’m thinking Peppers’ age (30) and the current labor situation might work against him a bit. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you can rule out any chance of him staying in the NFC South.

The Saints won’t be able to sign him because the rules currently in place eliminate the final four teams from signing unrestricted free agents unless they lose one of their own at a similar price tag. The Saints don’t have any free agents that will be in Peppers’ price range.

I know a lot of Atlanta fans are hoping the Falcons make a play for Peppers. But I don’t see that happening. Yes, they need a pass rusher. But the Falcons truly do believe in building through the draft. General manager Thomas Dimitroff has been using the phrase “fiscally responsible’’ every time he’s asked about how the Falcons will approach free agency. Peppers is a guy with lots of talent, but he’s never been consistently dominant. The Falcons know that. I think that’s part of the reason they’ll stay clear of him.

The Buccaneers? Come on. Tampa Bay isn’t exactly known for spending big on free agents and, despite the fact that Florida doesn’t have a state income tax, Peppers isn’t likely to be interested in the Bucs. He’s spent his entire career trying to duck the spotlight in Charlotte. Why would he go to a team like the Bucs where he’d stick out more than he ever did with the Panthers?

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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