Panthers franchise Peppers, sign Gross

The Baltimore Sun

The Carolina Panthers placed the franchise tag on defensive end Julius Peppers yesterday, setting up a potentially nasty showdown with their four-time Pro Bowl defensive end who wants to play elsewhere next season.

The move came moments after the Panthers signed All-Pro left tackle Jordan Gross to a six-year deal worth more than $30 million in the first three seasons. That cleared the way for Carolina to use the team's only franchise tag on Peppers, who had 14 1/2 sacks last season but expressed his desire to leave the Panthers and their 4-3 scheme for a team that plays a 3-4 defense.

Peppers, who was offered a one-year guaranteed deal worth $16.7 million, had said he would request a trade if the tag were used on him.

The move came on the final day for teams to apply a franchise designation, which keeps a player under the control of his current team for an average salary of the top five players at his position. Fourteen of the NFL's 32 teams protected players.

Also among those tagged yesterday were cornerback Dunta Robinson of the Houston Texans, tight end Bo Scaife of the Tennessee Titans, linebacker Leroy Hill of the Seattle Seahawks and offensive tackle Max Starks of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Scaife was the Titans' leading receiver in 2008 with a career-high 58 catches, a number that ranked him seventh among NFL tight ends. The franchise tag means Scaife will earn $4.46 million for 2009.

Robinson returns for nearly $10 million for one season if a long-term deal can't be worked out.

Hill will receive $8.3 million from the Seahawks.

Starks will receive $8.45 million for one season.

Steelers:: The NFL fined Santonio Holmes $10,000 for using the football as a prop while celebrating his last-minute touchdown catch that won the Super Bowl for Pittsburgh.

Holmes, impersonating NBA star LeBron James' pre-game ritual of tossing powder into the air, shook the football and tossed it after his 6-yard scoring catch with 35 seconds put the Steelers up 27-23.

Raiders: : All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the league's elite cover defenders, avoided the franchise tag by agreeing to a three-year, $45.3 million contract that gives him the highest salary in NFL history for a defensive back.

Colts: : Indianapolis signed cornerback Kelvin Hayden to a five-year deal worth $43 million.

Hayden intercepted three passes each of the past two seasons but is best remembered for scoring a touchdown on an interception return in the February 2007 Super Bowl.

Chiefs: : Kansas City announced that it will retain offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.

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