Today, Vic Carucci on asserted that the Patriots were close to making a deal with the Carolina Panthers for Julius Peppers. According to Carucci, the Patriots would only give up the pick they obtained from Kansas City in the Matt Cassel trade. Panthers general manager Marty Hurney has denied that any talks have taken place.

This rumor sparked the following discussion on the BSMW Messageboard this afternoon that reads like one of our old roundtable discussions. Scott Benson and Greg Doyle from Patriots Daily are the main participants.

Scott: Now that the rush of new rumor meat has dissipated, I’ve decided I hate this rumor and will be rooting for it to be BS.

Dan: I think it’s BS. I don’t think the money works.

Scott: That’s where my eyes glaze over. It’s easy for me to say “well, they’ll figure out a way, renegotiate some, cut others”.

For me, its about DeMarcus Ware. When Pass posted above that Pepper is the best pass rusher in the league, I searched some stats to see where he stacks up in pure numbers. While Peppers has been consistently in double figures since he’s been in the league, over the past couple of years Ware has been the league’s most prolific sacker. And as Feejis showed earlier, Dallas drafted him and developed him on their own. And as far as I know, Ware hasn’t bitched about his contract and hasn’t asked to be traded because after all this time he decides the defense doesn’t suit him.

Then there’s this feeling that he may be a great pass rusher but I can’t find anything that says he is an upper echelon player in defending the run (I don’t remember anyone saying that about Jason Taylor, for example) or can do anything else exceptionally. Plus, he’ll be 30 already before the end of the season.

I say build through the draft.

Greg: I don’t understand where the notion comes from they can’t acquire Peppers and re-sign Wilfork.

They have so many guys in the last year of their deals, a ton of money will come off the cap next year. Just between Seymour, Faulk, Jarvis Green, Stephen Neal, Nick Kaczur, Ellis Hobbs and Bruschi over $30 million will come off the cap for the 2010 cap year (assuming there even is a cap). Other free agents coming up will add even more. And that doesn’t even include Wilfork. Haynesworth’s deal only costs the Redskins $7.9 million on the cap this year and $10.4 million next year. I doubt Peppers would get that much. Probably could design something that costs $4-5 million this year and $7-8 million next year.

That will leave plenty to re-sign Wilfork. Maybe even Seymour and/or Green. Hobbs, Bruschi, Kaczur, Neal, even Faulk? It may be time to move on from them after this season.

Sure, there would be some transition for Peppers. Thomas is actually a good analogy because he is similar sized to Peppers (in weight) and was a college down lineman, drafted as a down lineman and who played downline his first few years with the Ravens (albeit as a backup). Once they moved him to linebacker, he began to play.

And I agree there was also a transition when Thomas came to the Patriots. I think bouncing inside for a time hurt and he only had half a sack his first 9 games here. And his only memorable play was that long INT return against San Diego his 2nd game here. But the last 7 games, he had 6 sacks his first season as he settled back outside and began making plays. I thought he was an absolute beast in the Super Bowl. And this season, thru his injury, I thought he was probably their best defender and made many plays and had adjusted to be the disruptive force they had expected.

But make no mistake, Peppers is a better player than Thomas ever was or is. Better athlete (a Moss-like freak really). Bigger, taller, faster, stronger and more productive. So it takes him a half season to adjust (I doubt they’ll slow the process by moving him inside)? By the playoffs you have one of the best pass rushers in the game harassing QBs. FOR A SECOND ROUND PICK!!!!!! You think Larry English at 34 will do anything nearly equatable in 2009? No way.

How could anyone be against that?

Scott: Its not just about 2009 for one thing. For another, he’s a lineman, not a linebacker, and its not unreasonable to wonder if he’ll be as good as a standup linebacker in a 3-4 as he was as a DE playing in a three point stance. Given the significance of his contract and the potential impacts on other players, its hardly a ridiculous notion to wonder what it all means and if its as good an idea as the “name” suggests. And its easy to throw out English or any other name as if no draft pick has ever come into the league and made an impact. Lamarr Woodley is two years in the league, had 11 sacks last year and had six more in the post season. I’d say I’d be pretty happy with that impact. He was 46th pick in the draft. You don’t necessarily need Peppers to have a pass rush. Its not either or.

Greg: True, but Anthony Spencer has had 4.5 sacks in 2 years. And he was drafted 26th in the same year. Lawrence Timmons, who the Steelers took before Woodley at 15 has had 5 sacks in 2 years. Even Woodley didn’t contibute much in his rookie year (14 tackles). Peppers is proven. Anyone drafted is not going to be a certainty. And while they could find someone to develop, its not like at age 29 (turns 30 in 2010) Peppers won’t be a good player for the following season. They got a chance to win in 2009. If they get Peppers, they are the favorite.

There are some good OLB in the draft. Hell, take one anyways if you want at one of their 3 other 1st and 2nd round picks besides 34. But Peppers is a difference maker player. He’d be the first truly dominant pass rusher since Belichick came here. I always wondered why he never tried to get one, like he had in New York with Taylor and its because they are so rare. Woodley is a good player, but on the Pats as opposed to Pittsburgh he is probably a 6 sack guy. Peppers is a 15 sack guy on the Pats defense surrounded by the other players he would be. Not to mention all the batted balls at 6’7″ (just check his passes defensed even NOT dropping into coverage with Carolina). You know there are Crables and English’s in the draft every year. There will be again next year. Good players. But not Peppers. Who was #2 coming out of college, has lived up to it and may be available for a measly 2nd round pick (actually a back up QB who was a 7th rounder). That just doesn’t come along often IMO.

Scott: I think you’re assuming alot about the player based on my observations. I don’t see the world changing player you do. Good productive pass rusher yes. A guy that’s going to switch to linebacker and become Lawrence Taylor? I don’t think that conclusion is free of uncertainties either.

Greg: Well, I agree there are uncertainties. But this is a guy who weighs 283 lbs. but ran a 4.68/40 coming out of college. He has 25 forced fumbles in 7 years. Just by comparison, Mike Vrabel who was probably the best at forcing fumbles on the Pats had 14 in his 8 years here. Peppers has 41 career passes defensed, the vast majority of which I guarantee are passes tipped up in the air or batted to the ground. The best on the Pats at that was probably Seymour (at least as a lineman) and I guarantee he is nowhere close to that. Peppers managed to pick off 4 passes in his 7 years, 1 of which he returned 97 yards for a TD. He is athletic. And I think BB has to be trusted here somewhat. He took Vrabel, a little used mostly situational pass rusher and special teams player who played mostly down in college at Ohio State and made him a full-time OLB. A good one too. He took Willie McGinest, who as I recall Pete Carroll had playing almost exclusively down, and made him a really really good OLB (and I think McGinest is a good model of how the Pats would use Peppers….down a lot in passing situations anyways…..perhaps in a little bit of a rotation like the old McGinest, Bruschi, Vrabel, Phifer, Johnson days.) McGinest wasn’t on the field EVERY play. Peppers I’d expect to be out there 90% of the time (for that money), but you’d see him down a hell of a lot too just like McGinest was. And he is a better pass rusher than McGinest.

Edit: Seymour is actually fairly close to Peppers with 29 PD in 8 years.

Scott: Its being suggested though this is the dominant force at LB that Belichick’s never had, that he’s finally getting his Lawrence Taylor. That’s the rationale I’m hearing, that this is such a great player that you do it, especially if its only the 34th pick you’re giving up. I agree that’s a great price for the right player, but the other shoe is that you have to pay the guy. If ITT is correct and its nine million, that’s plenty good enough to mitigate the other risk, which is that he never quite makes the transition as the same player, which wouldn’t be unheard of. But if its considerably more to sign him, I’m less comfortable with the risk.

Like I said, you think more of him than I do. As far as trusting Belichick, I do. If he makes the trade, I’ll trust him. Right now this is Vic Carucci’s and Pat Kirwan’s trade.