The good, bad and the ugly of the Bears signing Julius Peppers

If you’re a Chicago Bear fan, you’re probably going through a wave of emotions right now after learning that your team just signed free agent Julius Peppers to a six-year deal. So allow me to play NFL physiologist for a moment and break down what the signing could mean for the Bears.

The Good:
Peppers is a freak – a true athletic marvel. He’s averaged over 10 sacks a year in his eight-year career and racked up 25 QB takedowns in his past two seasons. Without question, the Bears needed to fill a massive void along their defensive line by adding a premier pass rusher, which they did by signing Peppers. He’s someone whose mere presence alone will make his teammates (Tommie Harris anyone?) better around him, by freeing them up to make plays. He was the crown jewel of the 2010 free agency period and he gives hope to a fan base that has been utterly dejected after the Bears crashed and burned in 2009 despite having high expectations following the Jay Cutler trade. Along with the deal for Cutler, the Peppers’ signing might also signal a new era for the Bears, one in which a once cheap organization will become more aggressive when it comes to acquiring new players.

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Is Julius Peppers worth a huge contract?

There’s no doubt that Julius Peppers will cash in on this year’s free agent market and in what should be a quieter-than-usual offseason, the defensive end would certainly be a huge catch.

But the question that all interested parties will inevitably be faced with is: Is Peppers even worth the price tag?

Peppers can be explosive at the point of attack and uses his speed to get off the edge to create havoc in an opponent’s backfield. He has great size and speed and can use a variety of techniques to disengage blockers and pressure the pocket. He’s also a better run defender than people give him credit for and simply put, he’s an athletic freak.

That’s the good, but here’s the bad. He has been known to take plays off, he’s highly inconsistent, and he can be unmotivated at times. He also just turned 30 and is the same player that virtually took an entire season off in 2007 when he finished with just 2.5 sacks (by far a career low) in 14 games.

Consider these stats from

Age 32 is a bit of a brick wall for defensive ends. Twenty-nine defensive ends are in the top 50 for career sacks. Those ends averaged 10 sacks at age 30, 9.8 sacks at age 31, but only 7.3 sacks at age 32. Only eight of those 29 reached double digit sacks at 32 and four were Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Michael Strahan and Chris Doleman-four of the top five leaders in career sacks. They totaled 54.5 sacks at age 32. The remaining 24 totaled 150 sacks and averaged just 6.3 at age 32.

Peppers is the best free agent on the market and given the position he plays, he might wind up becoming the highest paid defensive player in the league this offseason. But let’s assume that he’s the norm and not the exception when it comes to defensive ends. Is he worth the hefty price tag? Is it worth it for some team to fork over millions of dollars when he might only be productive for the next two years? Sure, he may average 10 sacks over the next two years, but what happens after that?

I realize all of this is hypothetical, but given Peppers’ history of inconsistent play, age, and price tag, he might not be worth a long-term investment in the end. In fact, he probably won’t be.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Peppers, Panthers set to do the same dance in 2010

According to a report by the Charlotte Observer, the Carolina Panthers and defensive end Julius Peppers are setting themselves up for dilemma in 2010 similar to the one they just went through this offseason.

The deadline for a team to sign a franchise player to a long-term contract ends today and apparently the Panthers and Peppers remain far apart on a deal. After he signed his one-year tender on June 24, the hope was that the two sides could come together on a long-term deal but so far, no such luck.

That means that the Panthers will face a similar problem next offseason when they’ll have to decide to either try and re-sign Peppers to a long-term deal, franchise him, or let him walk via free agency. Any one of the three options has its positives and negatives.

If Peppers wants to play elsewhere, then forcing Carolina to make another tough decision next offseason is smart. But if he wants to cash in on a massive contract before his playing days are over, the window to do so is closing considering he turns 30 next January.

Peppers doesn’t show for Panthers’ minicamp

As expected, Panthers’ defensive end Julius Peppers didn’t show for the start of Carolina’s three-day minicamp.

The stalemate continued Friday with the four-time Pro Bowl selection, who wants to play elsewhere. But the Panthers have placed the franchise tag on him, limiting his options in free agency.

Because Peppers has not signed Carolina’s one-year, $16.7 million tender, he can’t be fined for missing the mandatory minicamp.

General manager Marty Hurney says Friday he’s had several conversations with agent Carl Carey and they’ve been “all positive.”

Second-round pick Everette Brown of Florida State got more reps in Peppers’ absence

Peppers not showing up for minicamp is hardly a story, but it could be a telltale sign that he won’t show up for training camp, which would make headlines. Carolina hired Ron Meeks in January to replace Mike Trgovac as defensive coordinator, so one would think that Peppers would be in camp come July in order to learn the new scheme.

But while head coach John Fox doesn’t seem concerned about his star defensive end not attending camps until July, at least one Carolina believes that he’ll show up until after the padded work is complete.

It would be very Michael Strahan of Peppers if he did that.

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