Best free agent acquisitions in Green Bay Packers history: 9. Julius Peppers
Julius Peppers is one of the greatest pass rushers the NFL has ever seen. He was an absolute monster coming out of North Carolina in the 2002 NFL Draft. Peppers would be the No. 2 overall pick that spring. Only Fresno State quarterback David Carr went before him, landing with the expansion Houston Texans franchise.
Peppers spent his first eight NFL seasons with the Panthers from 2002 to 2009. He would leave Charlotte in 2010 NFL free agency to sign a six-year, $91.5 million deal with the Chicago Bears. Peppers would make three Pro Bowl rosters and be First-Team All-Pro with Chicago in 2010. However, Peppers would not play out his six-year deal in The Windy City.
Peppers would leave Chicago to join their NFC North rival in the Packers in 2014 NFL free agency. It would be a three-year deal, worth $30 million. Though a bit less coin than what he made in Chicago, Peppers was still a great player for the Packers into his mid-30s.
In three seasons with the Packers, Peppers had 25 quarterback sacks in 48 games. His best year with the Packers came in 2015 when he had 10.5. That was the only time he’d be in double digits with Green Bay. This was his ninth time reaching double figures in sacks. Unbelievably, he still had one more 10+ sack season left in the tank in his late 30s in a two-year stint to close out his career in Carolina.
The Packers made the NFC playoffs all three years he was in Green Bay. This includes two trips to the NFC Championship Game. Sadly, Peppers only got to play in one Super Bowl in his NFL career, and that came in his second year in the league with Carolina in 2003. The Packers couldn’t get it done against the Seattle Seahawks in 2014 and the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 to reach the big game.
While he only spent three years with the Packers, Peppers’ inclusion at No. 9 is merited for a few reasons. One, he is No. 4 all-time in quarterback sacks in NFL history. The guy will be a first ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer in the Class of 2024. He’s arguably the second most talented free agent pickup the Packers have ever landed.
The other key point to Peppers being here at No. 9, despite only three years of service to the Packers, is that Green Bay was at its nadir in terms of using free agency as an organization.
By the time 2014 rolled around, the word was out on Ted Thompson’s reluctance to dip into the free agent pool to build his team. Hitting on Peppers is easily the best free agent acquisition the Packers have made in the last half decade.