The Panthers' franchise leader in sacks, Peppers returns to Carolina to cap off a decorated 16-year career. With 143.5 quarterback takedowns thus far, he ranks fifth all-time in the category and has posted at least seven sacks in each season since he left town in 2009. At 37 years old, however, he's mostly a pass-rush specialist at this stage of his career, as evidenced by a personal-low 23 tackles last season. While Peppers remains a pest to opposing offensive lines and is usually a safe bet to force a few turnovers as well, his reduced role should temper expectations of the player that averaged over 10 sacks per season during his first stint in Carolina.
Peppers approaches his 15th NFL campaign at the seasoned age of 36, but the veteran hasn't shown any sign of decline. The man has logged eight consecutive 16-game seasons, and continues to churn out respectable sack totals each year. He currently has the most sacks in the league by any active player, and is still fully capable of getting after the quarterback; if he can notch just six more sacks this year, he will overcome Michael Strahan for fifth all-time. In 2016, Peppers will once again be deployed as an elephant linebacker in defensive coordinator Dom Capers' defense, a role that netted him 10.5 sacks last season, and seven the year prior. Expect similar sack numbers in the third and final year of his contract with Green Bay.
Peppers enters his 14th season in the league and his second in Green and Gold. Many anticipated a decline in Peppers’ play as he entered the latter stage of his career, but he was a bright spot in the Green Bay defense, racking up seven sacks and returning two interceptions for touchdowns in 2014. Peppers could produce similar numbers this year playing alongside Pro Bowler Clay Matthews.
After four fairly productive years in Chicago, in which he accumulated 37.5 sacks while averaging 43.8 tackles per season, Peppers was cut in a salary cap move that saved the Bears nearly $10 million this season. It took only four days for the Packers to bring him up north with a contract that could pay him up to $30 million (though only $7.5 million is guaranteed), and it's certainly possible that he could improve despite another year under his belt. With Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels and A.J. Hawk also getting after the quarterback, Peppers could see more single-coverage which would benefit his sack total this season.
Despite less-than-stellar tackle numbers, Peppers remains a consistent asset in IDP leagues, thanks in large part to his pass-rushing ability (11.5 sacks in 2012). The emergence of Henry Melton and Corey Wootton last season will make it increasingly difficult for teams to concentrate their efforts fully on neutralizing Peppers, perhaps allowing to reliable defensive end to notice a small uptick in his numbers.
As time-tested and consistently dominant as anyone on this list, Peppers reliably posts useful numbers or better every year despite being almost invariably the sole concern of opposing offensive lines. Endless double teams can't stop Peppers from posting a well-rounded box score for his owners, as he averages 47 tackles (39 solo), 10 sacks, five passes defended and almost four forced fumbles per season, as well as nearly one interception per year. The arrival of first-round pick Shea McClellin won't result in fewer double teams for Peppers, but it at least presents some additional hope in the form of better pocket collapse. Although McClellin won't draw any blockers away from Peppers, he might at least scare quarterbacks into running in Peppers' direction when it’s ill-advised to do so. Just keep in mind Peppers’ tackle totals are almost always mediocre – he surpassed 60 just once in his 10-year career.
While Peppers failed to impress last season with just eight sacks, he can probably be expected to hit double-digits again, considering he’s done it six of his nine years in the league. Even if he just misses like last year, Peppers’ ability to bat down passes and make an impact in the turnover department gives him enough upside to be considered a borderline elite IDP option on the defensive line. In addition to deflecting 14 passes the last two years, Peppers has totaled four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and eight forced fumbles. He’d have a chance to rank higher on the list if he had as much help on the defensive line in Chicago as he did in his Carolina glory days, but the general lack of talent around him in Chicago means offenses can single him out.
Peppers hit the jackpot this offseason,
getting a six-year deal worth more than $90
million ($42 million guaranteed) to bring his
freakish athleticism to the Bears defensive line.
Chicago fans will be hoping they get the
Peppers of the last two seasons, who averaged
12.5 sacks and 46 tackles while disrupting
countless plays (five forced fumbles, five
passes defensed, two INT last season) — and
not the 2007 edition that generated a mere 38
tackles and 2.5 sacks. They’ll also be hoping
that the massive contract won’t kill the drive of
a player who already had a reputation for
taking the occasional play off. If Peppers plays
to his ability, he should be among the best
fantasy DEs available.
As is appropriate for an ex-power forward, Peppers rebounded in a big way in 2008 with an excellent 14.5-sack, 51-tackle campaign � a huge increase from his career-low 2.5 sacks and 40 tackles in �07. But his status for 2009 couldn�t be less clear. Peppers wants out of Carolina. The Panthers have slapped him with the dreaded franchise tag and insist they�re trying to re-sign him to a long term deal. At press time, Peppers still hasn�t signed the one-year franchise tender, and neither side has shown any signs of blinking. If he stays in Carolina, he could thrive in new coordinator Ron Meeks� defense, judging by the DE production in Indianapolis under Meeks� direction. Wherever Peppers plays in 2009, he�ll have the potential to post outstanding IDP numbers � but watch his situation closely and beware of the holdout.
Prior to last season, Peppers had done little over his previous three campaigns to suggest that he was anything less than a franchise defensive end. During that span, he averaged 57 tackles and 11.5 sacks per season, before mysteriously hitting a wall and struggling to 38 tackles and 2.5 sacks for Carolina in 2007. There were rumors that Peppers was dealing with an undisclosed injury or illness all season long, while he did miss the final two games after being placed on IR with a sprained right MCL, but the Panthers and Peppers have been mum about any other sort of underlying issue that might have been limiting his output. Given the drop-off in production, Peppers will likely come at a nice little discount for those in IDP leagues, so barring some news during training camp that might lead you to believe that he's simply in rapid decline, rolling the dice on Peppers is one of the better gambles out there -- especially considering that he's playing for a new contract in 2008.
Peppers tried a new trick last year. He started hot instead of finishing hot. Beginning in Week 2, he had sacks in five consecutive games, totaling eight. In the first nine games he recorded 11 sacks. Finally, Peppers gave owners a reason to be confident in him early in the season. Of course, finishing with a career-high 13 sacks means only two came in the last seven games. All of which really is nitpicking since most linemen don't come close to delivering what Peppers does. He moves his rangy body faster than most offensive linemen can think and closes in a flash. Despite listing at 283, he can run with tight ends and has picked off his share of passes. That Superman scouting report translates to better numbers year after year than anyone, save possibly Jason Taylor, who might not have quite the same raw physical skills as Peppers but uses what he has more effectively. But not always: Peppers was the top IDP lineman in 2004, and threatens to be there again.
Peppers is a classic slow starter. In 2003, he had two sacks in the first 10 games, yet finished the year with sacks in four consecutive. The next year, it was two sacks through the first seven games before he got going. And last year, he had just one sack in the first seven before finishing with 10.5. He did suffer a broken hand last year and played with a cast so he wouldn’t miss any games, but that was actually when he started his good run. Knowing he’ll go off helps owners to be patient, but it’s still hard to wait with limited roster spots. It’s not like he makes so many tackles that he’s useful before the sacks come. He had a career-high 52 solos in 2004, but that season is bookended by years with 37 and 38, respectively, which appears more his level. Some of this may be that teams have figured out he’s great in pursuit when you run away from him, but is blockable when you head his way. Still, he’s among the most athletic ends in the game, with great hands, speed, technique and motor. Other than his 2003 sophomore slump, Peppers consistently gets double-digit sacks and is more likely than other ends to garner picks, touchdowns, passes defended and fumble stats. If the draft were held in late October, he’d be first pick.
Even with all-pro tackle Kris Jenkins missing the final 12 games of the year, Peppers rebounded from a down 2003, recording nine sacks after Jenkins went down. Almost as important as the sacks were his 52 tackles – Peppers had his best two tackling games with Jenkins on the field, so Peppers should keep up the pace even with Jenkins back this year. Peppers is also one of the premier athletes and playmakers among linemen, as evidenced by the two picks and two touchdowns. That’s the good news. The bad news is that even though he’d be the lineman most likely to score or intercept passes, stats like that are fluky and difficult to repeat. Although Peppers sustained great tackling and sack numbers with Jenkins out, we’d like to see Jenkins healthy again before assuming Peppers can be as good two years in a row without his big man in the middle. We can’t argue with anyone who takes Peppers first – take the picks and touchdowns away and he was still top five last year – but there’s enough reason to think he won’t be as far in the stratosphere as he was in 2004.
Peppers isn’t the second coming, as predicted. With just 18 solo tackles and two sacks in the first half last year, he very well may have been dropped by the time he netted five quarterbacks in his last six games to finish the year respectably at 41 tackles and seven sacks. Assuming he does rebound in QB crunches, the tackling stats must improve before he once again joins the elite. He has the quickness for above-average fumble and batted-ball totals as well.
Despite missing the last four games of the season because of a restricted substance in a dietary supplement, Peppers racked up 12 sacks, 29 solo tackles, five forced fumbles, an interception and six passes defended. With DE Mike Rucker (10 sacks) on the opposite side, and an aggressive defensive scheme, Peppers could very easily top 15 sacks in 2003.