Prospects For Peppers and Packers

Prospects For Peppers and Packers

If you were like me, you were surprised when Green Bay Packers linebacker, Julius Peppers, announced he was ‘unsure’ if he would return next year after the conclusion of the 2015 season. Somereports suggest Peppers is coming back for another year, but that remains to be seen. Maybe Peppers was overwhelmed with how things ended in Arizona after the defensive breakdown that led to Larry Fitzgerald’s 75-yard catch and run that effectively ended the Packers’ season.

[graphiq id=”5XdE1qZatKd” title=”Packers Barroom – Julius Peppers Overview” width=”640″ height=”607″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/5XdE1qZatKd” link=”http://football-players.pointafter.com/l/16139/Julius-Peppers” link_text=”Packers Barroom – Julius Peppers Overview | PointAfter”]

Once again, the Packers are Super Bowl contenders next season. It’s hard to imagine the organization not wanting to see Peppers rush the edge again. Fans, too. Especially after so much was left on the table in 2015. Peppers, in my mind, would only insure that a defense, which improved its play last year, can continue to better itself in 2016.

At 36, Peppers is considered the “old guy” of the Packers defense, and that’s why some suggest cutting him is a good idea. Doing so, would only count $2.5 million toward their salary cap, clearing up $8 million in cap room. Yes, the extra cap room is intriguing, but Ted Thompson is usually the last GM to hit the free agent market looking for prominent talent. The last time “Draft and Develop Ted” did so he shocked Packers fans by signing Peppers.

Peppers was cut by NFC North foe Chicago in 2014 allowing Green Bay the opportunity to offer Peppers $26 million over three years. Many thought that because of his age, declining play in Chicago and moving to a 3-4 defense, after 12 seasons in 4-3, made Peppers a risky signing.

With the Packers desire to have more athleticism in their pass rush why would they sign an aging veteran and not younger talent like Lamarr Houston or Demarcus Ware? But Peppers proved to be right answer. In Chicago, Peppers played in an unimaginative defense that was a hybrid of then defensive coordinator Mel Tucker’s and previous Bears head coach Lovie Smith’s 4-3, Cover-2. Under defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ scheme Peppers was better able to showcase his extraordinary athletic skills.

In his first season with Green Bay, Peppers accumulated seven sacks and four forced fumbles, recovering three of them. He also had two interceptions returned for touchdowns. In 2015, Peppers once again provided veteran leadership and consistent play for the Packers’ defense after leading the team with 10.5 sacks. He was selected to his ninth Pro Bowl, replacing Super Bowl MVP Von Miller.

Despite his age, the stats, and film, all show that Peppers can still play at a high level and he stayed healthy, starting all 32 games with the Packers.

Peppers

Plus, it appears he still craves a Super Bowl ring which has eluded him his entire career. Returning next year would provide Peppers one more opportunity to hoist a Lombardi Trophy on a team many prognosticators are favoring to be serious Super Bowl contenders.

On the flip side, if Peppers decided to retire it might not be a catastrophe. They’d have to re-sign Mike Neal and hope Jayrone Elliot continues to improve his play. Clay Mathews would move back to his rightful spot of outside linebacker.

Packers were without starting inside linebacker Sam Barrington in 2015, who suffered a season ending ankle injury in game one against the Bears. Matthews, who was forced to move inside for the second half of the 2014 season, found himself, again, playing inside in 2015. His production declined, including a stretch of two games (week 15 at Oakland and week 16 at Arizona) where he failed to record a single tackle. This is something no inside linebacker can defend as they are the heart of stopping the run, especially in a 3-4.

With Barrington back he should be better in the middle than Matthews. Promising second year ILB Jake Ryan needs to take a huge step further. And, you’d better believe Thompson is seeking more depth, maybe a starter at the position. There are several inside linebackers available via free agency Thompson will, almost certainly, talk to.

Yes, the Packers would definitely miss Peppers’ locker room and field leadership. Packers defensive end Mike Daniels said, “He (Peppers) does all the right things. I’m just very happy that I had an opportunity to play with him, and hopefully we can get it done for him (next season). He has everything but a Super Bowl ring.” Packers nation agrees, as they would love to see Peppers lace em up for one more chase at a Super Bowl title

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