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Source: Panthers DE Peppers would like to play for Patriots

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Julius Peppers wants out of Carolina and wouldn't mind going to New England. The Panthers will let him go only for what they believe is fair compensation.

The long-running offseason drama involving the four-time Pro Bowl defensive end is nowhere near a resolution, leaving the Panthers without salary-cap space and Peppers' future uncertain.

One day after the Panthers dismissed an NFL.com report that Peppers was close to being dealt to the Patriots for a second-round draft pick, a person close to the player said Tuesday that New England is one of the teams for which Peppers would like to play.

The Dallas Cowboys and two other unidentified NFC teams also are on Peppers' four-team wish list, according to the same person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the trade talks were supposed to remain confidential.

But several obstacles must be cleared before Peppers leaves Carolina. The biggest is that the Panthers have placed the franchise tag on their career sacks leader. That required them to offer Peppers a one-year tender for $16.7 million, which immediately counts against the salary cap, leaving Carolina no cap space to make any other free-agent moves.

Under the non-exclusive franchise-tag rules, Peppers can sign with another team only if that club gives up two first-round draft picks in return. There is precedent for teams letting a franchise player go for less compensation -- the Kansas City Chiefs traded defensive end Jared Allen to the Minnesota Vikings last year for a first-round pick and two third-round choices -- but any kind of deal now is tricky because Peppers hasn't signed his tender with Carolina.

Until he does, the Panthers are barred from any trade talks involving Peppers. His agent can negotiate with other teams, then can come to the Panthers with a deal for them to accept or reject. Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said in a statement Monday that the team hasn't been presented with any trade proposals.

It's also uncertain that the Panthers would be willing to accept just a second-round pick -- as the NFL.com report suggested -- for a player who had 14½ sacks last season and is the cornerstone of their defensive line.

Peppers, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 draft, announced last month that he wouldn't sign a long-term deal with Carolina and wanted to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. The Patriots are among the teams that use that defense.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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