- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2009

From combined dispatches

The Carolina Panthers placed the franchise tag on defensive end Julius Peppers on Thursday, setting up a potential nasty showdown with the 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. Having locked up Gross, the Panthers placed the nonexclusive tag on Peppers, who had said he would request a trade under that scenario.

“Julius was expecting to be franchised,” Carl Carey, Peppers’ agent, wrote in a text message. “We will continue to work toward a resolution that is in line with his professional goals.”

Under the nonexclusive franchise tag rules, Carolina offered Peppers a one-year guaranteed deal worth $16.7 million that will immediately count against the salary cap. While Peppers still can solicit offers from other teams, any club that signs him would have to surrender two first-round draft picks to Carolina.

Placing the tag on Peppers theoretically allows the Panthers to trade him for something less than two first-rounders and get some compensation instead of letting the cornerstone of their defense walk away in free agency. But Peppers has leverage because no team likely would trade for him without first securing a long-term contract agreement.

COLTS: Indianapolis will release receiver Marvin Harrison, the NFL Network reported.

The release of the 13-year veteran will end one of the league’s most prolific passing combinations ever. With quarterback Peyton Manning, Harrison caught 971 passes for 13,090 yards and 110 touchdowns.

Harrison, 36, played in just five games in 2008 because of knee and hamstring injuries. His release will save the Colts $7 million against the salary cap.

RAIDERS: All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha re-signed with Oakland, avoiding the franchise tag by agreeing to a three-year contract that’s thought to be the richest ever given to a defensive back.

Asomugha, who’s heading into his seventh season, is one of the league’s elite cover defenders. He was selected for the Pro Bowl and chosen to the AP All-Pro team last season despite getting just one interception - because opponents rarely even dared to throw to his side of the field.

TEXANS: Houston plans to put the franchise tag on cornerback Dunta Robinson, the first time the club has used the designation.

A person familiar with the decision confirmed the move to the Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because the team had not made an official announcement.

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