On Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine, Green Bay Packers head coach was asked about the potential return of linebacker Julius Peppers, who is set up to be an unrestricted free agent on March 9th. “He can play; he can still play,” McCarthy said, adding “but I think that’s something that we’ll probably talk a little more about down the road.”
Apparently now we are “down the road.”
In conversations with ESPN, Peppers’ agent Carl Carey confirmed that his client will return for his 16th year in the NFL, saying Peppers “feels great” and is “ready to go.”
The 6’7”, 287-pound Peppers will hit the open market this week after three years with the Green Bay Packers. In those three seasons, the team played in two NFC Championship Games while Peppers recorded 25 sacks, two interceptions (both in 2014 and both returned for touchdowns) and ten forced fumbles.
While there is no certainty about Peppers’ free agent destination, his agent was complimentary of the Packers, saying that the player and team have “tremendous respect” for each other. In addition, he confirmed that “there has been communication” between the two sides, though he did not elaborate further.
With the Packers, Peppers earned the full dollar amount on the three-year, $26 million contract he signed prior to 2014. That contract paid him a total of $8 million in 2016 alone, when he accounted for a $10.5 million salary cap hit. However, at 37 years old, Peppers’ market is difficult to estimate, considering his age, gradual reduction in snaps, and primary role as a pass-rusher.
Still, with the Packers shorthanded at the outside linebacker position — Peppers is joined on the market by unrestricted free agents Nick Perry and Datone Jones, plus restricted free agent Jayrone Elliott — the team will need to find depth at the position for 2017. Bringing Peppers back for one more go in 2017 is definitely still a possibility.