By Travis Pipes
Lombardi Avenue Contributing Writer
When NFL free agency kicked off earlier this week Packers fans may have – understandably – been bracing themselves for another quiet offseason led by Green Bay General Manager Ted Thompson.
During his tenure with the team, Thompson has largely been reluctant to spend on high-priced free agents who are available early on the open market, preferring instead to stockpile draft picks and groom players from within as they grow into the system. It’s a model he’s had resounding success with. Cornerback Sam Shields – who was undrafted out of the University of Miami in 2010 – is a prime example.
So, when the Chicago Bears signed veteran defensive lineman lamarr Houston away from Oakland earlier this week to beef up their defensive line it was another subtle- if not predictable – reminder that Thompson would continue to keep his checkbook wedged firmly in his back pocket.
Minnesota then inked ex-New York Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph to pair with rising star Sharrif Floyd in their defensive front line rotation which- on paper- instantly upgrades the Viking front.
As the week wore on value players such as defensive linemen Vance Walker and Justin Tuck were signed to deals by Kansas City and Oakland, respectively. And Denver – seemingly a piece or two away from winning a championship – jumped at the chance to sign veteran defensive end DeMarcus Ware when he was cut by Dallas this week.
With each of these signings another small gasp of air was let out of the collective spirit of Packers fans who have endured a slew of early playoff exits since winning the Super Bowl XLV championship in 2010. The main catalyst in those losses? A shaky defense marred by missed tackles, blown coverage assignments and all sorts of head-scratching penalties that have, shockingly, become the hallmark of the unit under Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers.
Thompson and Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy have remained steady through the turbulence and appeared to have been staunch in their approach to not break the bank in order to turn the tide on the defensive side of the ball.
That is, until today.
According to Mike Florio of Profooballtalk, “Agent Carl Carey has announced on Twitter that free-agent defensive lineman Julius Peppers has agreed to terms with the Packers.”
It’s a move that – on paper – mirrors the crucial acquisitions of Charles Woodson and Reggie White. The impact of both of those moves cannot be understated as each helped propel Green Bay to a world title.
Peppers, to be clear, isn’t the dominant edge rusher he was during his Carolina tenure. His production has dipped and 2013 was, statistically, not one of his best seasons as he registered just 7.5 sacks and 31 total tackles. For those thinking that this Peppers is the second coming of the Minister of Defense it may be wise to temper expectations.
However, for a team in dire need of a boost on the defensive side of the football, this was a move that Green Bay absolutely had to make. Peppers’ signing instantly brings a veteran presence to the front seven. He’ll mentor a young and promising core of linebackers that include Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Sam Barrington and Brad Jones. And not to mention, it puts a little more juice into the rivalry with the Bears. Who isn’t looking forward to seeing Peppers tower over Jay Cutler multiple times in 2014?
It remains to be seen how this scenario will ultimately play out, but for now, packers fans have a lot to be excited about as the offseason continues.
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