Green Bay Packers veteran linebacker Julius Peppers decided Wednesday he'll return for the 2016 season after taking some time to think about his future.
"Oh, yeah," Peppers said when asked if he will play next season, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "Yes."
Ryan Wood of PackersNews.com reported Peppers wasn't prepared to make his decision immediately after Green Bay's loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Divisional Round. Instead, he simply said he would "talk about that when it's time."
The 36-year-old North Carolina product proved he could still play at a high level this past season. He racked up 37 combined tackles, 10.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for a Packers defense that ranked 12th in points allowed.
Football Perspective provided an interesting tidbit about his continued success:
Julius Peppers was just the 2nd player in the last 15 years with double digit sacks during his age 35 season (joining John Abraham).— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) January 17, 2016
Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com passed along comments from Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who praised the longtime star's commitment to the game:
Julius brings so much to the team, I think. As a coach, and if you've got a lot of young guys, it's far more effective to point to Julius Peppers and say, 'There's a reason why that guy has played for 13 years or whatever -- because he's a true pro.' You go into any meeting and he's sitting up front taking notes, never misses a practice.
Between those examples of leading by example and his continued on-field success, it made sense for the Packers to want him back. He's set to count $10.5 million against the cap in 2016, according to Spotrac. He'll then be in line to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason if he once again decides to keep playing.
The Packers previously discussed moving Clay Matthews back to outside linebacker next season. Pairing him with Peppers would make for a potentially dynamic one-two punch in terms of rushing the passer.
Green Bay will need to monitor Peppers' reps in order to keep him fresh. But he's still an impact performer, and his decision to return leaves one less void for the front office to fill in the months ahead.