The Chicago Bears finished the year 8-8, and are looking at yet another critical offseason. After proving to have one of the best offenses in the NFL during 2013, it was found that the defense had taken a major step back, which is what led to the mediocre season. Fixing that side of the ball over the next three-four months with personnel moves is going to be the most important task for GM Phil Emery and company to address.
A major question mark will be what they decide to do with three-time All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers.
Obviously, it would seem foolish to get rid of probably your best defensive lineman on a defense that ranked dead last against the run and third-worst in points allowed, but the issue with that thought process is that it just isn’t saying much anymore. Yes, Peppers may have been their best D-Lineman in 2013 — who had 7.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a pick-six on the year — but it’s clear he’s regressed at nearly 34 years old (Jan. 18).
With a cap number in excess of $18 million in 2014, is he worth this elite use of cap space any longer? That’s where this question stems from.
If the Bears are to sufficiently add to that side of the ball through free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft, can they afford to keep him at this price? The easy answer is no, of course not. The way his contract is set up, releasing Peppers will open up $9,816,665 of cap room, according to CBSSports.com, during this offseason. That’s enough money for a very good free agent, or maybe even a couple of them.
So, with holes at defensive end, defensive tackle, corner and safety on that side of the ball, releasing Peppers seems like the only logical thing to do, as well as the most responsible option for the organization.
There is a scenario in which they may be able to keep him, however, which would at least make things a little bit easier for the team, but it entirely depends on how much Peppers would like to stay in Chicago. If he would be willing to redo his deal and take a lesser amount of money, then it could be justifiable to keep him because even if he’s not a top five end anymore, he’s still a good player and the best one at his position on the Bears.
But if he’s not willing to do that, well, then that’s just too bad. He’ll have to find work elsewhere because the Bears can replicate his production for a much lower price, and the cap space, frankly, is more valuable to them at this time.
While I don’t want to see him leave and have loved watching him play every Sunday, if I was Emery, I’d be cutting Julius Peppers to set myself up for a much more successful offseason.