This contract is officially 26 million over 3 years (with another 4 million available through incentives), which seems pretty weird for a player going into his age 34 season. However, this deal has no guaranteed money after the first year, in which he’ll make 8.5 million. The Packers can easily cut him after the season, avoiding cash payments of 9.5 million in 2015, and actually save 7 million on the cap. 3.5 million (1 million in cash and a third of the 7.5 million dollar signing bonus) is the cap hit for 2014, while the other 5 million would hit the cap in 2015 if he were released (as opposed to 12 million, 9.5 in cash, 2.5 million in dead money, if he were to be on the 2015 roster). It’s essentially a 1-year, 8.5 million dollar deal which the Packers can spread on the cap over 2 seasons.
That being said, this is still way too much to pay for Julius Peppers. I like the fit of Peppers in Green Bay. Peppers is aging and no longer able to play as many snaps as he once did. He’ll rotate snaps with Nick Perry and, to a lesser extent, Clay Matthews at rush linebacker and provide needed depth at a position where Perry and Matthews have missed a combined 24 games over the past 2 seasons combined. However, Peppers is not worth 8.5 million a year anymore.
A once dominant edge rusher, who graded out above average on Pro Football Focus in every season from 2008-2012 and in the top-10 among 4-3 defensive end in every season from 2008-2011, Peppers has graded out 18th and 36th among 4-3 defensive ends over the last 2 seasons respectively. Last season, he actually graded out below average and that 36th place finish came out of just 52 eligible at the position.
That’s undoubtedly due to his age and he’s unlikely to improve going forward. He’s also unfamiliar with the 3-4, after playing in a 4-3 his whole career. That’s a lesser concern that the age, especially if the Packers go to more of a hybrid scheme this year, but still a concern. Combine that with his age and this signing doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Remember that John Abraham, arguably a better player than Peppers when he was released and hit the open market in a similar stage in his career last off-season, got just 4.6 million over 2 years on a deal he signed last July. I’m shocked Peppers got this much money and got signed in March.