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

Four landing spots for Julius Peppers

Julius Peppers is ruling out a long-term deal with the Panthers, making it more and more likely that he won’t return to Carolina next season.

With that in mind, here are four possible landing spots for the defensive end next season.

Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are loaded with depth at the defensive end position, headlined by Trent Cole and rounded out by Juqua Parker, Darren Howard, Victor Abiamiri, Chris Clemons and Jason Babin. But they still lack that playmaker opposite Cole that could really wreak some havoc in defensive coordinator Sean McDermott’s aggressive scheme. Unless a sleeper prospect falls to them in the middle rounds, it’s unlikely that the Eagles will be able to address their defensive end need via the draft. That’s where Peppers comes in. If Philly decides to be aggressive this offseason, they may try to acquire Peppers whether the Panthers decide to franchise tag him or not. (They may be in line to acquire more draft picks if/when they trade Kevin Kolb, Donovan McNabb or Michael Vick.) Paired with Cole, the Eagles would have one of the best pass-rushing tandems in the league.

Atlanta Falcons
Jamaal Anderson hasn’t turned out to be the pass-rushing force opposite John Abraham that the Falcons envisioned he would be when they selected the former Razorback with the eighth overall pick in 2007. Worse yet, after racking up 16.5 sacks in 2008, Abraham (the team’s best pass rusher) only produced 5.5 QB take downs last season and will turn 32 in early May. Some feel as though Abraham has lost a step, but he would flourish playing opposite Peppers on the same defensive line. Pep would also make the vastly underrated Jonathan Babineaux and 2009 first round pick Peria Jerry even more dangerous on the inside, but the question now becomes whether or not the Falcons will be active in free agency. GM Thomas Dimitroff didn’t make any significant splashes last offseason, instead opting to build his roster via the draft. But if Dimitroff decides to be aggressive, then Peppers makes a lot of sense for a team like Atlanta, which is clearly on the rise but needs to plug some of its defensive holes.

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