38-Year-Old Julius Peppers Reportedly Leaning Toward Playing in NFL in 2018

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2018

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 24:  Julius Peppers #90 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after a play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Julius Peppers is considering returning for a 17th season in 2018, the Charlotte Observer's Scott Fowler reported Friday. 

Fowler spoke to a source who said Peppers is "leaning toward playing" but hasn't made a final decision. Fowler added that if Peppers were to come back, he'd only play for the Carolina Panthers.

Peppers appeared in all 16 regular-season games for the Panthers in 2017 and finished with 33 combined tackles and 11 sacks.

While those are strong numbers, Peppers turned 38 in January, and he's coming off shoulder surgery earlier this month. According to Pro Football Reference, only 13 defensive ends in NFL history have continued playing after hitting age 38, and of those 13, nine played the equivalent of a full season.

As much as Peppers means for the Panthers franchise, having spent nine seasons in Charlotte, the team may be wary of signing a player on the wrong side of 30 who had offseason surgery.

The Panthers' search for a new owner and a general manager could complicate matters as well. Both tasks add to a busy offseason for the team, and a new front-office regime may not value Peppers as much as interim GM Marty Hurney did in the event Hurney isn't named the permanent GM.

There's no question Carolina needs another pass-rusher to take some pressure off Mario Addison, who had a career-high 11 sacks.

In that sense, re-signing Peppers could give the Panthers a short-term stopgap at defensive end until they can identify his long-term successor.

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