Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Packers Signed Julius Peppers And I'm Stunned

I had high hopes a few weeks ago that the Packers might make a splash in free agency, but after the first couple days it looked like they might be focused on re-signing their own and doing some bargain shopping over the next couple weeks. Instead GM Ted Thompson made one of his biggest free agent signings in years:
He wasn't the same pass rusher in 2013, and he wasn't worth the base salary the Bears were scheduled to pay him in 2014. Though it probably didn't help him last season that the Bears had virtually no one to provide a pass rush last season. The Bears released him instead of kicking his contract obligations into a future year, and they're taking an $8.4 million salary cap hit in 2014 for his release. But they did sign M.D. Jennings!

Peppers is getting older (34 this season) but he's been very durable. It doesn't look like he's missed a game since 2007 and health has value. His pass rusher ranking in 2012 was much better according to Pro Football Focus, back when he got help from DT Henry Melton, and it'll surely help both him and LB Clay Matthews to be lining up opposite from each other next season.

I expect he'll be starting at defensive end in their 3-4 set and I can't imagine him lining up at outside linebacker. He'll probably rotate with last year's first round pick DE Datone Jones, alongside NT B.J. Raji and DE Mike Daniels with 2012 second round pick DE Jerel Worthy also in the mix. On obvious passing downs, they might move Peppers inside along with Daniels, while Matthews and LB Nick Perry rush from the ends. And DE/LB Mike Neal will be lining up somewhere as a wild card.

The Packers really needed a pass rusher for the defensive line, and though he might be on the decline, they got one in Julius Peppers. He's also their biggest free agent signing (from another team) since CB Charles Woodson in 2006. They didn't overpay for him either (he got a lot less guaranteed money than DE/LB Demarcus Ware, and only $250k more than the Bucs paid to Evan Dietrich-Smith). This might not look nearly as good in a couple years, but right now I'm excited thinking about how he'll help the Packers next season.

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