The Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers will no longer have to live in fear of defensive end Julius Peppers on game days for the 2014 season. That's because Peppers is the newest member of the Packers.
Green Bay and Peppers agreed to a three-year deal, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN:
This was the first big free-agent signing for the Packers this offseason, and it's one of the more surprising signings that we've seen in free agency.
For starters, the Packers did a great job of signing Peppers to an incentive-heavy contract. The maximum amount of money Peppers could make over the three years is $30 million. However, he's only guaranteed $7.5 million, according to Anderson:
Considering Peppers was going to account for nearly $18 million with the Chicago Bears in the upcoming season, according to Spotrac.com, the fact that he'll only count $8.5 million against the Packers cap is a great move by Green Bay.
The potential benefits of Peppers in Green Bay go much deeper than simply the salary cap though. Peppers will instantly add a pass-rushing presence that the Packers lacked severely last year. As you can see in the chart below, Peppers would have had the second-most sacks for Green Bay had he played with them last year:
|Green Bay Packers Sack Leaders|
In fact, recently re-signed outside linebacker Mike Neal simply couldn't hide his excitement about what the Packers defense could be capable of in the upcoming season:
Adding Peppers to a group that already includes Neal, outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry and defensive ends Mike Daniels and Datone Jones should scare the rest of the NFL. This is a defensive front that is going to be able to put pressure on the quarterback on a consistent basis.
The only real question surrounding Peppers is how he'll exactly fit in the 3-4 defense that the Packers currently run. While Peppers has never played in a 3-4 defense, his desire to play in one was one of the reasons he wanted to leave the Carolina Panthers, according to Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com.
One very interesting scenario would be if the Packers lined Peppers up at outside linebacker opposite Matthews on obvious passing plays. The combination of Peppers and Matthews could be one of the most-feared pass-rushing duos in the league.
Of course, it could be a difficult position switch for Peppers now that he's 34 years old, but it's not unheard of for players to excel in new positions at an older age. Just look at Robert Mathis of the Indianapolis Colts and his 19.5 sacks as an outside linebacker last year at the age of 33.
While there is still plenty to figure out concerning just how the Packers will use a talent like Peppers, it's hard to not be excited about this signing by general manager Ted Thompson. After staying so quiet through the first few days of free agency, the Packers made themselves big winners by bringing in a player like Peppers.
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