Julius Peppers: The missing piece in Green Bay Packers puzzle?


Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Ted Thompson, the Green Bay Packers’ general manager is finicky when it comes to signing free-agents.

That might be putting it lightly.

Thompson either does nothing during free-agency, signs players with unmet potential at a bargain price and gives them an opportunity to make the team – see Matthew Mulligan, or Anthony Hargrove. Or he signs a veteran player(s) that just might be the missing piece.

In 2006, he signed both Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, two players who have solidified their position in Packers history.

Saturday of this past weekend Packers Nation awoke to a pleasant surprise. Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers signed veteran defensive end and pass rush specialist Julius Peppers. Packers fans are certainly familiar with Peppers as he has made Aaron Rodgers nervous on more than a couple of occasions during his last four seasons playing for the rival Chicago Bears.

If I’m fair and honest I’d admit that I had stated earlier in the week that I wasn’t real keen on Peppers, I was focused on the illusion that was DeMarcus Ware. But now that Peppers is in the fold on a three-year contract that really looks like a one, maybe two-year deal, designed to see if the 34-year-old Peppers has anything left in the proverbial tank, I am looking forward to seeing him in the Green and Gold.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports photograph

I like the Peppers signing for a number of reasons. First and foremost he is a proven commodity. I believe in the draft and develop philosophy, but it seems the Packers continually go into the season with players that are hoped or expected to blossom, yet these players seem to have ho-hum campaigns and leave Packers Nation wanting more, i.e. Mike Neal 2011, 2012, Nick Perry 2012 and 2013, Datone Jones 2013 and hopefully not 2014, but it’s a roll of the dice.

With Peppers it is reasonable to expect he will collect at least seven sacks, however, it’s not unreasonable to think that he could tally plus-10 sacks on the season.

Peppers paired with Clay Matthews III the Packers now have two legitimate pass rushers. Add in Mike Daniels who is an ascending third-year defensive lineman and a host of potential guys in Neal, Perry and Jones the defensive front looks fairly impressive. Not to mention one would assume B.J. Raji moving back to nose tackle would increase his production, coupled with the fact that his market value is low and he needs to prove his worth playing on a single-year deal.

Another upside to having Peppers on the defensive line is his height. At 6-7 he is three inches taller than Datone Jones, who at 6-4 was the tallest player on the Packers defensive line. Peppers’ height helps balance out a defensive line that lines up a bit short and adds the ability to knock down passes and close passing lanes.

All that said, I’m not about to compare Peppers to Woodson, Pickett or for crying out loud Reggie White. I’ll take a more measured approach and wait to see what he does on Sundays. But on paper the Packers defensive line is looking quite a bit better.

Now how about the safety position, Ted? Packers fans are never satisfied.

In addition to blogging about the Green Bay Packers for Lombardiave.com, Patrick Hughes blogs about gardening at wheelandbarrowlandscape.com, and previously wrote about running and the Portland Trailblazers at Oregon Sports News.