Thursday, February 04, 2016

Will Julius Peppers Play For The Packers In 2016?

The Green Bay Packers should be very happy to have LB Julius Peppers back in 2016. Despite his recent Pro Bowl appearance, Peppers didn't have as much impact in 2015 as he did in 2014 but it's hard to see that as the sign of his imminent decline.

While his sack total was up (10.5 in 2015 from 7 in 2014) several other stats were down, but his 2014 and 2015 seasons are both comparable to past seasons stretching back to his time with the Panthers and Bears. His career stats are about as consistent from season-to-season as any player you're likely to find, and he's only missed 2 games since 2002! Though he just turned 36 years old, an age that should place major question marks on any non-QB/non-kicker, Peppers is an amazing, consistent star who is an exception to those rules.

So the fact that Adam Schefter wrote a line in his most recent column that Peppers may have already played his final NFL game is big concern.
It's a little surprising to read that from Schefter when there was a different report earlier this week suggesting that Peppers would play again in 2016 even if the Packers release him.

Just looking at Peppers by himself, he's a still a great player and worth the $8 million cap charge he'll cost next season. The lone advantage in releasing him now would be to use that cap space on a younger player in free agency, but I generally hate free agency and his release would also cost them a $2.5 million cap charge in dead money. The Packers currently have around $21 million in cap space so creating cap space is not a big need.

But when you look at the state of the roster without Peppers, his release would leave their roster without any quality linebackers other than Clay Matthews. Nick Perry and Mike Neal are both unrestricted free agents, and neither one is a priority to re-sign. Who knows how Sam Barrington will be after missing almost the entire 2015 season with injury. Some combination of Jake Ryan, Joe Thomas and Nate Palmer might be useful as a backup (maybe Ryan has potential next season as a starter) but that's a thin bench. Pro Football Focus listed linebacker as the Packers' number one need this offseason, and despite the recent report that coach Mike McCarthy is "fed-up" with the Packers' approach in free agency, it's unlikely that GM Ted Thompson will be aggressive in that area. It'll be important to keep valuable linebackers like Peppers, and draft a couple more options this April too.

No comments: