LB Julius Peppers Leaves Packers to Sign with Panthers

Packers outside linebacker Julius Peppers has signed a deal with the Carolina Panthers, the team that originally selected him second overall in the 2002 NFL Draft.

2016 season recap verdict: Expectations were high, but met
Peppers’ contract with Carolina: To be announced
Projected compensatory pick range: 5th
The Packers next play the Panthers: 2017 in Carolina

During his three seasons in Green Bay, Peppers has been a versatile, productive pass rusher. He never missed a game during the life of his three year, $26 million dollar agreement with Green Bay and paid big dividends on the Packers’ investment.

Peppers totaled 25 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and two interceptions during his time in Green Bay. He also returned both of those interceptions for touchdowns.

However, Peppers also saw his playing time wane over the last three seasons and participated in under 60% of the defensive plays in 2016. It’s possible his role reduction may have played a part in his departure for Carolina, which is also his home state.

How Peppers’ signing helps the Panthers

Though his role has diminished, Peppers can still be productive, as evidenced by his 7.5 sacks last season. He’s still not going to be an every down player and is minimally effective against the run, but if Carolina is merely looking for veteran pass rushing depth, Peppers is certainly a good option.

If possible, should the Packers have matched this contract?

It’s unclear the details of Peppers’ contract with Carolina as of publication.

There’s a possibility Green Bay, or any other team, didn’t actually have an opportunity to bid on Peppers. The Wilson, North Carolina native played collegiately at the University of North Carolina and was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2002.

Playing what could be his final season for the Panthers puts a bookend on a Hall of Fame career, much like Charles Woodson did with the Raiders. Whether the Packers offered anything or not may not have mattered if Peppers wanted to go home.

Does Peppers leaving help or hurt the Packers?

It’s less of a worry about losing production and more a concern about the amount of competent pass rushers on the Packers’ roster. Currently, the Packers employ Nick Perry, Clay Matthews, Kyler Fackrell, and nobody else as far as pass rushers go. The Packers almost can’t worry about production at this point; they really just need bodies.

Peppers impact as a turnover producing machine also can’t be discounted. In just three seasons, he produced a dozen turnovers just by himself. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett produced 14 combined. That sort of production is hard to replace, and the Packers will need to find someone to step up.