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Pro Football Weekly's Eric Edholm brings you hot news and the inside scoop about the NFL.

Sleeper team for Peppers: Might Rams be interested?

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By Eric Edholm

Julius Peppers is as wishy-washy a player as he is a man. Three years ago, he refused a contract that would have made him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, and that was after a 2½-sack season. Now he says he's "turned off" that the Panthers haven't talked extension with him. Hmm.

His hot-and-cold play on the field also suggests he might not be worth $15-plus million a year. Peppers can absolutely dominate an opponent one game and then not even register a tackle the next week. Trading the house for this guy and paying him accordingly could be a lot to ask.

But teams are desperate for pass rushers, even those who open things up for other players. You might be able to build a scheme around Peppers if you have other good complementary parts.

So with that in mind, I'll throw out one crazy, wildcard team into the mix: the Rams.

This idea is not based on any inside information, but if you bear with me, it makes some sense.

Steve Spagnuolo lives off pressure, and Peppers could provide it better than anyone else he has playing right defensive end. Pair Peppers up with Leonard Little (assuming they re-sign him) and you have a very strong DE combo to get after the QB. If anyone knows first-hand how good Peppers can be, it's defensive coordinator Ken Flajole, who coached the Panthers' linebackers for the previous six years before coming to St. Louis prior to last season.

Who might they trade him for? How about Chris Long and a draft pick? It just so happens that Panthers DL coach Brian Baker coached Long his first season in St. Louis. Now, I know people there will tell you that Baker was tough on the rookie Long that year, but he also spoke of his potential to be very good. In addition, Long fits the mold of the first- and second-down end who can move inside to tackle that the Panthers seem to like and he's a high-character player who would pass the Jerry Richardson test immediately. Long should get better and would be an upgrade over Tyler Brayton, who is a free agent. It would give the Panthers some nice depth at end: Long, Charles Johnson, emerging Everette Brown and pass rusher Hilee Taylor.

The Panthers need draft picks, too. The pick might not be more than a third-rounder if Long was included, but it would partially make up for the first-, fourth- and fifth-round picks they dealt for Brown, Louis Leonard and Tank Tyler.

What would be the biggest impediment to this deal? Plain and simple: money. The Rams are in a precarious position with their finances and might not be able to afford a hit of Peppers' magnitude. And you also have to consider that they will be taking on a massive contract from either Gerald McCoy or Ndamukong Suh with the No. 1 pick. But they must rally the fans and give them something to be excited about. They could go the cheap route at QB and go for Michael Vick, which would not cost them too much. And a Peppers-Little-Adam Carriker-McCoy/Suh line, backed by MLB James Laurinaitis, would be the foundation for a much improved Rams defense that Spagnuolo could build around.

Even if it doesn't happn, it makes some sense. After all, we have entered the season of speculation.

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