Last offseason, the Green Bay Packers let outside linebacker Julius Peppers sign with his original team, the Carolina Panthers, as a free agent. We now know they didn’t even bother to offer Peppers a contract.
Peppers turned 37 in 2017. Clearly, the Packers’ logic was Peppers was too old. He was finished.
This came after a season in which Peppers registered 7.5 sacks. The Panthers signed Peppers to a fairly modest $3.5 million one-year deal, with sack incentives that could push it to $4.25 million. Peppers registered 11 sacks for Carolina in 2017, earning the full amount of the deal.
Peppers parlayed that into another one-year deal worth $5 million from the Panthers.
Meanwhile, the Packers struggled mightily with their pass rush. Their heavy hitters — Clay Matthews and Nick Perry — finished with 7.5 and seven sacks respectively. The rest of their outside linebackers had 5.5 sacks combined, led by Kyler Fackrell’s three.
Keeping Peppers wouldn’t have solved that problem alone.
However, coach Mike McCarthy admitted the Packers messed up in not re-signing Peppers last year. That he was missed both from a leadership and production standpoint.
“Oh, absolutely,” McCarthy said. “You look at Julius and Datone (Jones), that was 1,100 snaps of pass rush and we replaced it with (Ahmad) Brooks and (Chris) Odom. Just from an availability standpoint alone, that was a pretty significant void there.”
Jones is really insignificant in this conversation. The former first-round pick didn’t do anything in four seasons with the Packers. He was out of the league in 2017. If the Packers wanted him back, he was available.
Green Bay signed Brooks after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. He was regularly injured and delivered just 1.5 sacks. Odom was claimed off waivers after being released by the Atlanta Falcons. He didn’t register a sack and hardly played.
As McCarthy seems to be pointing out — those were crap signings. Ones that added up to nothing.
The Packers have yet to get any better on the edge this year. Free agent signing Muhammed Wilkerson may help provide some push up front. Vince Biegel may come on after an injury-riddled rookie season. Nick Perry and Clay Matthews may stay healthy for a full season.
Lot of maybes there.
The Packers sorely need to address the edge either through the draft or by hoping a potential impact player gets released later this offseason.