2014 NFL Free Agency: Bears officially release defensive end Julius Peppers

2014 NFL Free Agency: Bears officially release defensive end Julius Peppers
USA Today

This move appeared to be on the horizon well before the Bears signed defensive end Lamarr Houston to open free agency on Tuesday. But Houston’s signing basically set it in stone.

Chicago Bears team officials announced that the team has terminated the contract of Julius Peppers. Peppers still had two years left on his six-year, $84 million deal that he originally signed in 2010.

The release clears $9,816,665 in cap space, which is over $14 million in cash savings. The Bears will swallow $8.367 million in dead money if not designated by June 1 cut.

“We appreciate Julius’ contributions to the Bears over the last four years,” said general manager Phil Emery. “He was a leader on our defense starting every game since coming to Chicago. His accomplishments over his NFL career place him among the best defensive ends over the past 20 years. The Chicagoland community has benefited greatly from his quiet generosity. We wish him the best.”

In his four seasons with the Bears he started every game. Peppers totaled 151.5 tackles, 38 sacks, nine forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and three interceptions in his time in Chicago. In 2013, the 34-year-old North Carolina product added 48.5 tackles, 7.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.

Other than Week 11 and Week 13, Peppers did very little for the Bears’ struggling defense. He racked up two sacks a piece in each of those games. He failed to record a sack in 11 games last season.

Peppers joins running back Michael Bush, punter Adam Podlesh and tight end Dante Rosario as cap cuts this off-season by the Bears.

Peppers still has lots of talent and will likely be in high demand for teams in need of pass-rushing help, but with his high cap number in 2014 and 2015 made it almost impossible to keep him.

An eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, Peppers’ deal signed with the Bears during the 2010 off-season was back loaded by then general manager Jerry Angelo. Peppers has 119 career sacks, 40 forced fumbles and nine interceptions.

Peppers’ nine career interceptions are the most by a defensive lineman since 2002. His release leaves Earl Bennett, Chris Conte, and Stephen Paea as the only Angelo signed contracts left on the current roster.

I thought the Bears and Peppers should have both tried to restructure his deal considering he could start opposite Houston and make a solid impact. But Peppers likely wanted more than what the Bears would have reduced his contract to.

At 6-foot-7, 287 lbs Peppers has always been an athletic freak bouncing inside often on passing downs, but he doesn’t command a double team anymore and teams took notice.

He was a great addition for the Bears at the time they signed him, but he isn’t a fit for the team with so many upgrades needing to be made on the defensive side of the ball.

Speaking of changes, the Dallas Cowboys have reportedly made Bears free-agent defensive tackle Henry Melton their top target, according to the team’s official website. 

Safety Ryan Mundy, linebacker D.J. Williams and special-teamer Jordan Senn all inked deals with the Bears on Tuesday as well.

More news to come on the first day of the free-agent signing period. Houston and safety Ryan Mundy will be introduced at Halas Hall on Wednesday at 1:30 PM CT.

 

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