Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers was named today in a release by the NFL that detailed the 15 players participating in this year's Pro Bowl who are also on the league's All-Decade team of the 2000s.
The full 53-man roster will be released on Sunday during Pro Bowl coverage, but the list of the 2010 Pro Bowl participants on the All-Decade team was made available Wednesday. Peppers is the third Panther to be included on an All-Decade roster in the team's fifteen year history. Kevin Greene and Michael Bates were on the All-1990s squad.
Peppers was drafted second overall in the 2002 draft by the Panthers, who were coming off the dreadful 1-15 season of 2001. Pep was John Fox's first draft pick, and was the first selection in what turned out to be the best draft day the team has ever had.
In his eight seasons with the Panthers, Peppers has compiled 81 sacks. If you subtract his ghostly 2007 season in which he finished with just 2.5 sacks in 14 games, Peppers has been a dominant force since his first day on the job.
The Panthers will have their hands full again this offseason when contract negotiations with Peppers resume. Peppers made it clear before the 2009 season that he was ready to move on to another team and a different defensive system, and was disgruntled by the team's decision to use the franchise tag on him. He waited until the last minute to sign the tender and was tight-lipped in the media for most of the season.
One has to wonder if the defensive machine that was the Carolina D in the last handful of games in 2009 might force the five-time Pro Bowler to rethink his future. The Panthers allowed 20-plus points only twice in their last eight games and somehow erased a massive turnover margin deficit that was largely a result of quarterback Jake Delhomme's 18 interceptions.
While the Panthers struggled to stop the run at times during the regular season, their pass defense in new defensive coordinator Ron Meeks' "Tampa-2" scheme was impenetrable at times, rattling Brett Favre and Eli Manning in the closing weeks of the season in important games for those respective teams.
It is possible that the naming of Peppers to this elite roster will be the his last act as a Carolina Panther outside of his stat line in Sunday's Pro Bowl. However, it could also be possible that Peppers has bought into Meeks' scheme and will stick around in Carolina to watch this unit grow together and not be forced to use half of a season as a tutorial.
We'll find out soon enough...