As every football fan most know by now, the Chicago Bears game out of the gate firing on Friday as free agency began, signing DE Julius Peppers, RB Chester Taylor, and TE Brandon Manumaleuna to substantial deals.
One of this writer's biggest problems with the Bears current braintrust, more specifically Jerry Angelo, has been the lack of that impact move in free agency.
That was until last year when he brought in Jay Cutler.
Now on the surface, these three moves look like solid decisions addressing needs on a Bears squad that was lacking last season. But honestly, do these moves, and more to the point, does the Peppers signing make sense in the large picture?
Peppers signed a six year deal worth up to $91 million dollars including $41 million in guaranteed money through the FIRST THREE YEARS.
I'm sorry, but is anyone else concerned about this?
I mean seriously, Peppers is an amazing talent but only when he wants to play. The biggest gripe that came from the Panthers is that he takes not only plays off, but series off as well. From what I understand, he can sometimes be the defensive end version of the Bears own Tommie Harris.
Now don't get me wrong, if Peppers goes out there and gets 12 sacks this year, awesome. I will apologize. But my expectations for this year is nine sacks maximum including at least five of those sacks coming in garbage time and/or in garbage games.
Lets look at Peppers 10.5 sacks from last season:
- Sack one: Down 38-10 in the first game of the season Peppers records a sack on Eagles backup QB Kevin Kolb at the beginning of the fourth quarter after Kolb has time in the pocket to look downfield before trying to rush.... plus, the score is already 38-10. (0-1 in quality sacks)
- Sack two and three: Sack No 2 came in the first quarter of game number four against the Washington Redskins. Peppers chased down Jason Campbell from behind in the first quarter as they were down 7-0. It ended that drive. The second sack came in the fourth quarter as the Panthers were down 17-12. Peppers forced Campbell out of bounds right at the line of scrimmage. (1/3 because the first sack required some skill. The second one was more of an escort out of bounds than a big play).
- Sack four and five: Peppers records two sacks in the second quarter of a 28-21 win over the Tampa Bay Bucs. One had Buc's QB Josh Johnson forced directly into Peppers waiting arms and the other was Peppers just blowing up Jeremy Trueblood for a sack and forced fumble. (2/5. Peppers got a good one on Trueblood but the other was Johnson just running into Peppers arms).
- Sack six: Down 7-2 at the beginning of the third quarter, Peppers tackles Buffalo Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick from behind for a one-yard sack. The Panthers went on to lose the game 20-9. (2/6. Not a quality sack because it was a clean up after Fitzpatrick had plenty of time to look downfield).
- Sack seven: Peppers takes down Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner in the fourth quarter as the Panthers were up by 10. To add to it, Peppers also had an interception returned for a touchdown in the second quarter (3/7. Good sack and good pick six).
- Sack seven and a half: Peppers jumps on the Jets Mark Sanchez as Tyler Brayton had him wrapped up as the Jets were up 14-6 (Not a quality since Brayton already had him locked up and it was only a half sack given).
- Sack eight and a half: Pepper sacks Josh Johnson in the second quarter for a four yard loss after Johnson couldn't find anyone open at the Panthers 20 yard line (4/8 only because it was deep in Panthers territory. Johnson did have more than enough time to get rid of the ball so you could chalk it up to coverage, but Peppers kept after it).
- Sack nine and a half: Peppers gets to Vikings QB Brett Favre in the third quarter after just blowing up Bryant McKinnie. This was a great sack, Peppers got to Favre before he could even really look downfield (5/9. Straight up a great play).
- Sack ten and a half: Peppers blows up Giants right tackle and brings down Manning for a 12 yard loss. A very good play by Peppers, very poor play by Manning (6/10. Manning didn't help himself any, but Peppers did get there fast).
Overall, not terrible numbers, but if you look at the schedule, you will notice that after week eight of the season, Peppers only had three and a half sacks. And of his 10.5 sacks, five of them came against the Bucs and Redskins, who were a combined 7-25 last season.
I am not denying Pepper's abilities, he is without question an athletic freak of nature. I am however questioning if those on again off again abilities are worth a minimum of 40 million dollars for the first three years.
That money could have been spent on several other areas of need. The Bears need a free safety and help on the offensive line. Instead of Peppers, they could have pursued DE Aaron Kampman, who just signed with the Jaguars for what is being reported as a four year deal for 26 million dollars, of which only 11 million is guaranteed.
That would have left some leeway for the Bears to pursue free safeties such as Ryan Clark or Antrel Rolle (who signed with the Giants) or the cagey veteran and now Super Bowl Champion Darren Sharper.
The Bears currently have the trio of Josh Bullocks, Craig Steltz, and Danieal Manning at that free safety position... or in truth, no one worth mentioning at that position.
I don't mean to hate on current Bear players, but Bullocks is not starter material, Steltz has shown some flashes, (but has missed some tackles and seems to lack the ballhawking skills the Cover 2 defense requires) and Manning just looks lost when he is out there.
Second year player Al Afalava is more of a strong safety than a free and the same goes for Kevin Payne. Both are solid in run support and can lick a receiver coming over the middle, but don't quite have the ball skills to make consistent plays in coverage.
In other words, the Bears ignored arguably their biggest hole on the defensive side of the ball. One could argue that if Peppers can put pressure on the QB, then the safety play will improve due to forced passes and not having to cover receivers for longer periods of time. But that is asking a lot of a player on the wrong side of 30 and who doesn't always seem to show up.
While I do like the Chester Taylor signing and I guess I can understand the Manumaleuma move, Peppers seems to be a bit of a stretch for the price they paid.
Don't get me wrong. Peppers is now a Bear and I will cheer him on til the end, no question. I just wonder if this move was the wisest one Jerry Angelo and the "braintrust" could have come up with.