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Peppers looking at major money

The All-Pro defensive end is one of the most feared pass rushers in the National Football League, the kind of player who must be accounted for every moment or your quarterback will soon be counting his teeth.

Most guys want long term contracts. Julius Peppers is better off without one. The All-Pro defensive end is one of the most feared pass rushers in the National Football League, the kind of player who must be accounted for every moment or your quarterback will soon be counting his teeth - after he wakes up from an unscheduled nap. Last season Peppers amassed 14 and a half quarterback sacks and forced five fumbles. He was quite often unblockable and always a difference maker because even when he wasn't making plays he was forcing offences to expend so much effort and personnel on keeping him in check it opened up avenues to less talented teammates.

Naturally the Panthers, whose coach John Fox has built his team around stout defence, did not want to lose him and just proved that by signing Peppers to a remarkable one-year deal. Unwilling to re-sign for what Carolina was offering in a long-term contract, Peppers spent five months this off-season saying he wanted to leave even though the team had used an accounting move to control his movement.

Under NFL rules teams can designate one franchise player. In exchange for paying him the average of the top five players at his position they can prevent him from becoming a free agent. What that meant to Peppers is he will be paid a minimum of $16.6 million (Dh60.9m) this season with the strong likelihood of earning at least $18.1m and perhaps as much as $19.1m because he will be paid an additional $1.5m for making the Pro Bowl and an extra $250,000 for every playoff game, including the Super Bowl, Carolina wins in 2009.

The best part about this from Peppers' perspective is that now that he's signed the team's tender offer after four months of saying he wanted to be traded to a team like the New England Patriots that plays the 3-4 defence and might allow him to switch to outside linebacker, he owns one of the few fully guaranteed contracts in the NFL. The Panthers now have three weeks to try and negotiate a long-term deal with Peppers that would lower his one-year charge against the team's salary cap.

On the surface one might think Peppers, 29, would be happy to agree to such a thing but, truth be told, for this year he already is the highest paid player simply by doing nothing but agreeing to a one-year deal. Better than that, if he duplicates his performance of a year ago he will either become a free agent at the end of the season with immense value to many teams or again force the Panthers to franchise him.

If Carolina does the latter it would mean a guaranteed 10 to 20 per cent raise and likely 2010 compensation of $20m or more. If that happens Peppers would have earned roughly an average of $18.5m per year for those two seasons without ever having become a free agent. All Peppers will have done was sit on quarterbacks during the season and sit out negotiations after it. Not bad work if you can get it.

One might expect a player commanding such a salary might encounter jealousy inside the locker room but in Peppers' case, it seems, his value is well understood. "The Panthers would have had to trade him for lesser value because his value is through the roof,'' Peppers' teammate Jon Beason said. "To see him play in games is unbelievable. He's such a specimen, such a freak, he's so gifted and talented it's unbelievable. He's definitely the most talented lineman I've ever seen and maybe the most talented player."

As of now, Peppers is also the richest. rborges@thenational.ae

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