Free Agent Target #8 - DE Julius Peppers

It has been suggested, that the 8th best free agent this offseason is DE Julius Peppers. He just turned 29 years old and he's already had a great NFL career. It looked like he might have started to decline after his 2007 season, but he rebounded in 2008 with 14.5 sacks. Green and Bold is in favor of signing him:

Julius Peppers at OLB would be absolutely insane. I’d love to go after him.

Although the pass defense was outstanding last season, the decline and release of DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, along with the season ending injury to DE Cullen Jenkins, really left them with no consistent pass rush on the right side. Jenkins will return and probably play at right defensive end. But GM Ted Thompson should consider a top pass rusher to play at right OLB (assuming DE Aaron Kampman moves to left OLB).

The big problem with signing Peppers is that he's never played outside LB. Also, he might have had a falling out with his former defensive coordinator Mike Trogvac who was just hired to coach the defensive line in Green Bay. Although Trogvac's problem last season seems to have been with Carolina's head coach John Fox and not Peppers.

Another problem is that he doesn't look like a OLB. He looks like a perfect defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. That's what former GMs Charley Casserly and Floyd Reese said. Of course, that might also be why Casserly and Reese are former GMs. A lot of people (myself included) thought CB Charles Woodson would have to move to safety when the Packers signed him in 2006. Since I was wrong about Woodson, he's still a great cornerback, I'm willing to give Peppers the benefit of the doubt that he can play OLB in a 3-4.

One other note; he's proven that he's not the greatest teammate by his stated desire to move on and never sign a long term contract with Carolina.

Peppers will come with a huge price tag. It's possible Carolina will place the franchise tag on him and be willing to pay him $17 million for one season. That's an awful lot of money for someone who has no problem burning bridges and might struggle with the transition to a new position. He's a great player who would certainly make the Packers better in 2009, but I would prefer they pursue a great college pass rushing DE who appears better suited for the transition to OLB, such as Florida State's Everette Brown. Or I would prefer free agent DE/OLB Terrell Suggs over Peppers too.

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