The following statement was released late Friday by Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers to ESPN through his agent, Carl Carey:

“The front office has been informed of my desire to explore opportunities with other NFL teams following the expiration of my contract next month. At this point in my career, I am seeking new challenges that will allow me to grow, develop and reach my personal potential on the football field.

“I strongly feel that making a move at this time is in my best interest. I appreciate the entire Panthers organization and am thankful for the seven seasons I’ve spent with the team.”

Peppers, 28, has been a Panther his entire career, seven seasons. The team would have to pay him nearly $17 million to sign him for the 2009 season.

“Julius is firm in his decision that he needs a change,” Carey was quoted as saying on “He feels that he can thrive in another system. While he has been selected to four Pro Bowls and designated as an All-Pro during his career, he feels that he has yet to develop to his full potential. This is the case of a great player who seeks to become an elite one.”

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