Patriots to stay away from Peppers?

One of the biggest rumors that made its rounds during the NFL offseason last year was the Patriots potentially acquiring defensive end Julius Peppers from the Panthers. Now that he’s an unrestricted free agent, those same Peppers-to-New England rumors are starting to pop up again.

It’s highly unlikely that the Panthers will pay the absurd $20.1 million in order to place the franchise tag on Peppers and keep him in Carolina for 2010. And if they don’t, Peppers is free to sign with any team of his choosing – including the Patriots.

But as Mike Reiss of notes, New England was burned in March of 2007 when they signed free agent Adalius Thomas to a hefty five-year, $35 million contract, which also included $20 million in guaranteed money. At the time, Thomas was coming off an 11-sack, 83-tackle season in Baltimore and he was supposed to team up with Richard Seymour to give New England a fierce pass rush.

But in three seasons with the Patriots, Thomas has just 14.5 sacks and even managed to get into Bill Belichick’s doghouse last year by showing up late to a team meeting. Considering that Peppers is 30 and would break the bank as the biggest free agent name available this year, New England might be gun shy to acquire another Thomas in the making.

That said, Thomas isn’t the only former Raven that failed when he left Baltimore’s defensive scheme. Lional Dalton, Sam Adams, Ed Hartwell and Duane Starks all failed when they left Baltimore, so it’s not a complete shock that Thomas was a free agent bust as well. It would be unfair to assume that Peppers would bomb outside of Carolina, just because Thomas did when he left Baltimore.

Granted, Reiss brings up a good point that the Patriots may try and re-sign their own players this offseason, instead of shelling out big money to outside free agents. Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Stephen Gostkowski, Kevin Faulk, Leigh Bodden and Tully Banta-Cain are all in line to receive new deals either this year or after the 2010 season.

So where will Peppers wind up? Given that 2010 will be an uncapped year, who knows. Teams are always in the market for a top pass rusher, which are so hard to find via the draft.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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