There is not a bigger question facing the Bears this offseason, than what to do with their aging superstar Defensive End Julius Peppers. Peppers signed a free agent contract with the Bears in 2010 and immediately became a disruptive force on a defense that was already considered by many to be one of the league’s best. The Bears paid a hefty price to lure Peppers from resigning with Carolina, giving him a six-year contract worth $91.5 million, with $42 million guaranteed in the first three years making him one of the highest paid defensive players in the game. In turn Peppers was voted to the Pro-Bowl in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
Coming out of training camp for the 2013 season, Peppers is quoted as saying that he feels 25 years old. As the season progressed Peppers looked more like a player playing at his actual age of 34, totaling career lows in sacks, tackles, and fumbles forced. There have been many theories as to why Peppers had such a lackluster season, ranging from: nagging injuries, to being constantly double teamed due to the Bears lack of depth on the defensive line. Whatever the reason was Peppers surely did not play like himself in his previous All-Pro years, and certainly did not play like a player set to earn $18.183 million dollars in the 2014 season.
With the rapid demise of the once vaunted Chicago Bears defense, GM Phil Emery is facing some difficult decisions, and one is what to do with his aging Defensive End. Emery has already made it clear that in order to remain with the team Peppers will need to take a significant pay cut to help a team that currently does not have a lot of cap wiggle room. Emery and Head Coach Marc Trestman have already stated that the Bears need to get younger and more athletic on the defensive side of the ball, and that does not bode well for Peppers even if he is willing to take that pay cut. In the never ending business of the NFL, it has become increasingly common for teams to cut ties with superstar players, and this may be one of those situations.