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Julius Peppers

Julius Peppers

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The five-month Julius Peppers saga is over for the Carolina Panthers â€" at least for this season.Peppers, the team's franchised all-pro defensive tackle, signed an offer sheet Wednesday, locking him up with the Panthers at least one more season after saying in January he wanted to be elsewhere.

The deal makes Peppers perhaps the highest-paid player in the NFL with a one-year contract that could pay him up to $19.183million this season.

"I've had positive and productive discussions with the organization," Peppers said in a statement.

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"I am optimistic and focused as I look forward to the upcoming NFL season."Peppers had the best season of his career in 2008.

Playing in the final year of his contract, he had 14.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl for a fourth time.

When the season ended in January, he said he was ready for a change.The Panthers responded by making Peppers their franchise player, prohibiting him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.

As a result, his options included accepting a one-year tender to play for Carolina or looking for an offer from a team the Panthers found acceptable.No trade materialized.

While the whole process could play out again next year, Peppers is a Panther again now.The outcome was not a surprise to general manager Marty Hurney."We always go by actions," he said.

"We've known Julius for seven years and he's been the same guy for seven years.

He's a valuable, important player for us and we haven't seen a change in that."Peppers has a guaranteed $16.683million base salary â€" the amount of his offer sheet as a franchise free agent â€" plus an incentive of $1.5million if he makes the Pro Bowl and $250,000 per each playoff win up to and including the Super Bowl.The incentives carry over from his contract from last season.If the Panthers franchise him again next year, they'll have to make him a tender offer of around $20million and a total deal, counting incentives, worth more than $22million.Said Carl Carey, Peppers' agent: "Julius is more than satisfied with the outcome and is prepared and ready to play football."The Panthers likely will try again to sign Peppers to a long-term contract, but so far he has resisted.Hurney said he didn't expect having Peppers signed would lead to a trade.

He also said there were no contingencies in the contract prohibiting the Panthers from franchising Peppers again in 2010.It's uncertain what affect Peppers' earlier declaration of wanting to play elsewhere will have on team morale.

Several players said during offseason training this month they respected Peppers' right to look around and he'd be welcomed back if he signed his tender.The Observer's attempts to reach several Panthers players for reaction to Peppers' signing were unsuccessful.

Peppers signing "shows he's happy and comfortable to be here," said Hurney.

"He is a very competitive, prideful person that has always, through his actions, shown that he likes being a Carolina Panther and likes his teammates."The Panthers also signed seventh-round draft choice Captain Munnerlyn, a cornerback from South Carolina.

Free-agent running back Markus Manson and cornerback Reggie Sullivan, who played at Johnson C.

Smith and Hopewell High, were released.Subscribe to The Charlotte Observer & Earn Miles.



http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/story/798614.html
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