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.

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Peppers doesn’t show for Panthers’ minicamp

As expected, Panthers’ defensive end Julius Peppers didn’t show for the start of Carolina’s three-day minicamp.

The stalemate continued Friday with the four-time Pro Bowl selection, who wants to play elsewhere. But the Panthers have placed the franchise tag on him, limiting his options in free agency.

Because Peppers has not signed Carolina’s one-year, $16.7 million tender, he can’t be fined for missing the mandatory minicamp.

General manager Marty Hurney says Friday he’s had several conversations with agent Carl Carey and they’ve been “all positive.”

Second-round pick Everette Brown of Florida State got more reps in Peppers’ absence

Peppers not showing up for minicamp is hardly a story, but it could be a telltale sign that he won’t show up for training camp, which would make headlines. Carolina hired Ron Meeks in January to replace Mike Trgovac as defensive coordinator, so one would think that Peppers would be in camp come July in order to learn the new scheme.

But while head coach John Fox doesn’t seem concerned about his star defensive end not attending camps until July, at least one Carolina believes that he’ll show up until after the padded work is complete.

It would be very Michael Strahan of Peppers if he did that.

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