Dollars, cents out of Peppers talk

Given how much money a top-10 pick costs, perhaps we shouldn't rule out a deal for the stud defender. After a report rekindled the Packers-Peppers speculation, Packer Report breaks down the financial aspects of making a deal.

Pro Football Weekly recently rekindled talk of the Packers landing Julius Peppers with a quote from an anonymous NFL source saying Green Bay and Denver seemed like logical destinations for the Carolina Panthers' unhappy franchise player.

There were no facts to support this rumor. No mention of the Packers having even talked to Carolina about Peppers. No mention of whether Peppers would be the least bit inclined to come to Green Bay. The only "meat" was pointing out Peppers' desire to play linebacker in a 3-4 defense and the Packers' conversion to the 3-4.

Nonetheless, as the Packers watch the free agent world go by, let's just throw out the possibility that general manager Ted Thompson is saving that precious salary cap space to acquire Peppers.

OK, there are obvious flaws in that scenario.

First, Peppers will cost a lot of money — a sentence that needs no further explanation.

Second, Thompson has made it a priority to re-sign his top players, and Greg Jennings, Aaron Kampman and Nick Collins headline the team's 2010 free agents. Signing Peppers would make it more difficult to retain those players.

Third, Peppers will cost a lot beyond just dollars and cents. Last year, in a similar situation, the Minnesota Vikings acquired the Kansas City Chiefs' franchise player, Jared Allen, for a first-round pick and two third-round selections. Thompson, of course, clings to draft choices like they're gold.

Fourth, we have no idea if Peppers would be interested in playing here, and he basically has veto power on any trade because any deal would require him to sign a contract.

For today, let's just tackle the first issue: money.

Conventional wisdom says Peppers is going to want a contract befitting a player of his immense production. No doubt, conventional wisdom is right in that regard, especially in light of the funny money being thrown at players this offseason.

But keep in mind the cost of owning a top-10 pick. The Packers own the No. 9 pick in April's draft, and that player isn't going to come cheap.

Last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Derrick Harvey with the eighth selection. That makes a handy point of reference since NFL inflation means this year's ninth pick will make about as much as last year's eighth pick. Plus, Harvey is a pass-rushing defensive end who fills the same role as Peppers. So, it makes a good jumping-off point.

Harvey, after a lengthy holdout that basically ruined his rookie campaign, signed a five-year, $23.8 million contract. The deal included $17.2 million in guarantees and could be worth more than $30 million if he hits all of his incentives and escalators.

That's obviously a lot of money for a guy who hasn't proven anything, and the Packers will be forced to do the same should they stand pat at No. 9.

How much would Peppers cost?

Upon being traded to the Vikings, Allen inked a six-year deal worth $73.3 million. The contract included a $15.5 million signing bonus, a $7.75 million roster bonus for this season and $31 million guaranteed in all. This offseason, the Jets signed linebacker Bart Scott to a six-year, $48 million contract with $22 million guaranteed, and the Giants signed defensive end Chris Canty to a six-year, $42 million contract with $17.25 million guaranteed.

Peppers would be getting closer to Allen's money than Scott's and Canty's. Allen, who turns 27 in April, has 57.5 sacks in his five seasons, including 14.5 in 2008. Peppers, who just turned 29, has 70.5 sacks in his seven seasons, including 14.5 in 2008.

Clearly, the $60 million or $65 million it would take to get Peppers is a lot of money, especially with big-bucks contracts on the horizon for some key young players. Then again, does that much money seem so preposterous when there's no guarantee Brian Orakpo or Everette Brown or B.J. Raji or whoever is selected at No. 9 will turn into even a decent starter? Remember what spurred the Vikings to acquire Allen: back-to-back failures in drafting defensive ends.

With that said, the chances of landing Peppers are remote. Beyond the monetary issues, the Packers would have to work out a deal with the Panthers, who probably see what the Chiefs got for Allen as a logical starting point for their trade talks. And Peppers might have no interest in freezing his butt off up here in December, which renders all speculation null and void.

Still, based sheerly on dollars, this deal makes cents.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum. Bill also is giving Twitter a try. Find him at twitter.com/packerreport


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