Peppers Focused on Winning Championship

Former Bears star Julius Peppers agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with Green Bay. Peppers, who ranks third among active players in sacks, should make the Packers more multiple on defense. "I feel like the team is set up to make a run and I feel I can help get it there," he said.

In a Saturday morning bombshell, the Green Bay Packers signed eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers.

Agent Carl Carey announced the transaction on Twitter. According to ESPN, he signed a three-year deal worth $30 million, including $7.5 million guaranteed and first-year compensation of $8.5 million.

"That's the most important thing. I haven't won a championship," Peppers told Packers.com when he was in Green Bay to sign the contract. That's where my focus is. I feel like the team is set up to make a run and I feel I can help get it there."

That's what the Packers are counting on — Peppers adding some firepower to a defense that has been defenseless in key games the past three seasons.

Peppers, who was Carolina's first-round pick in 2002, turned 34 in January. He ranks third among active players with 119.0 sacks. He's ranked in the top 10 in six of his 12 NFL seasons, including a ninth-ranked 11.5 sacks for Chicago in 2012. Last season, he started all 16 games and had 7.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.

He tormented the Packers during his four seasons with Chicago. In eight career regular-season matchups, Peppers had 6.5 sacks. In 2013, he had a sack in each game and an interception of Seneca Wallace in the Bears' win at Lambeau Field.

"The teams that have the good quarterbacks are the teams that win. That obviously factored into some of my decision making," Peppers said of joining Aaron Rodgers. "I'm looking forward to playing with Aaron. As much as I disliked chasing him around, I'm excited to join him."

In terms of coach Mike McCarthy's stated desire of being more multiple on defense, Peppers should be quite an asset — assuming his declining production wasn't a signal that his career was out of gas. At 6-foot-7 and 287 pounds, the Packers could use him in a similar fashion as they wanted to use Mike Neal last season. Peppers has the size to play defensive end in the base defense, the quickness to play defensive tackle in nickel and the athleticism to stand up and play linebacker.

All Peppers would say is "it's going to be something different" when asked about his role.

"(Defensive coordinator Dom Capers) likes to be versatile and do different things. That's something I've wanted to do my whole career," Peppers said. "This team last year had a great offense, even when Aaron went down. The defense — I don't know what they were missing. I definitely feel I can help them get to an elite level. Everything's a perfect fit."

Not only has Peppers been a prolific pass rusher, but he's forced 39 fumbles and picked off nine passes in his career. Of his 10 forced fumbles and three interceptions with Chicago, he had two strips and an interception last year.

The Bears made Peppers available when they released him in a cost-cutting move on Tuesday.

"Julius has been an important part of our locker room," Bears coach Marc Trestman said at the Scouting Combine. "His work ethic was exceptional during the whole season. His focus was good. I'm sure he'll tell you as we all did, that he had very, very good moments and moments when he didn't play as well as he would have liked."

Four days after his release, Peppers became Ted Thompson's only noteworthy free-agent signing since landing Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett in 2006.

Woodson and Pickett became vital members of a championship defense, with Woodson likely penning a Hall of Fame resume based upon his seven seasons in Green Bay. Peppers probably is headed to the Hall of Fame, as well, but does he have more to give?

Last season, based upon ProFootballFocus.com's study of 4-3 defensive ends who played 50 percent of the snaps, Peppers ranked 33rd out of 37 in its pass-rushing productivity metric, which measures sacks, hits and pressures per pass-rushing snap. Peppers ranked 14th in 2012, seventh in 2011 and 18th in 2010.

"I have a lot left in the tank. I have a lot left to give, a lot left to offer. I want to show people I can still play the game at a high level," he said.

Asked about Peppers before the Packers' game against Chicago at Lambeau Field, offensive line coach James Campen said: "Julius Peppers is kind of his own guy. He's a powerful man that has exceptional quickness, excellent length, very strong, savvy — obviously been in the league a long time and is playing at a high level."

Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac coached Peppers from 2002 through 2808 when they were with the Carolina Panthers. Trgovac was defensive line coach in 2002 and defensive coordinator from 2003 through 2008.

Peppers spent the last four years with the Bears and earned Pro Bowl selections in each of his first three seasons in Chicago. He had 7.5 sacks last season, the fewest since joining them. He started every game in those four years, had 37.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl in the first three years.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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