The Panthers decided not to put the franchise tag on DE Julius Peppers, which will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent on March 5. His departure will leave a glaring hole in Carolina's defense. Everette Brown, a second-round pick in 2009, will be expected to help fill the void, along with Charles Johnson, who is heading into his fourth season. One of the Panthers' first orders of business in free agency will be to work on getting a deal done with UFA DE Tyler Brayton, who has started opposite Peppers for the past two seasons. GM Marty Hurney could sign a moderately priced free-agent defensive end to add some depth to the end corps or he could address that need in the draft, but sources do not expect Carolina to spend much money in free agency. Hurney traded a 2010 first-round pick last year to move up in the second round to acquire Brown.
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