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Peppers, Panthers getting closer to divorce

The defensive end doesn’t want to sign a long-term contract with the Panthers. Joe Fortenbaugh

Print This February 09, 2010, 12:08 PM EST

As the 2010 NFL free agency period continues to get closer, several teams will look to lock-down their elite-level stars to prevent them from jumping ship to another team.

It doesn’t look like the Carolina Panthers will be one of those teams.

Free agent defensive end Julius Peppers spoke to Chris McClain of WFNZ’s “The Mac Attack” on Monday afternoon and was asked if he wanted to talk about a long-term deal to stay with Carolina.

“Last year, at the time, that was the option I wanted most,” Peppers said. “But now it’s not.”

Peppers ranks fifth in the NFL in sacks over the past two seasons (25). In 2009, the former North Carolina Tar Heel amassed 42 tackles (36 solo), 10.5 sacks, two interceptions, five forced fumbles and scored one touchdown. He also earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.

“They’re not even talking to me, so why would I come out and say I want to be here, when the team is not even acknowledging the fact that my future with the organization is up in the air.”

Two things to keep in mind regarding Carolina’s pending decision on Peppers: First, the Panthers don’t have a first-round pick in April’s draft. Second, they could apply the franchise tag to Peppers for the second consecutive year, but that would cost them over $20 million in 2010.

However it shakes down in Carolina, the Panthers are going to need some help up front if Peppers isn’t back with the team next season. Therefore, let’s take a look at NFP Director of College Scouting Wes Bunting’s top five defensive ends in this April’s draft.

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