Julius Peppers & the Pats

Wherever Julius Peppers winds up in free agency, he should be getting a thank-you note from those who report on pro football in New England, because for a player who has been with another team for eight seasons he sure has generated a lot of discussion here.

I was reminded of this today when filing the weekly Patriots mailbag for ESPNBoston.com, which will be posted on the site shortly. The first question echoed one of many that were submitted: Is Peppers to the Patriots a realistic option?

Now comes the news from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that the Carolina Panthers will not place the franchise tag on Peppers.

I think it's a long-shot because I can't envision the Patriots doing something like that before reaching long-term resolutions with at least one of their own two big-ticket items first -- Vince Wilfork and/or Tom Brady.

I could see the Patriots making an initial call in free agency to put themselves in position to strike on Peppers if the contract it would take to land him unexpectedly dropped. That is a possibility given the uncertainty surrounding how teams will be operating in a season without a salary cap.

But from this view, it still seems like a long-shot that Peppers-to-the-Patriots would come to fruition.