The Chicago Bears owed Julius Peppers more than $18 million this season. For a cash-strapped team, dumping superstar money on a 34-year-old who no longer performs like an elite player just isn't feasible.
Yesterday, it was reported the Bears were calling around the league looking to trade Peppers. Obviously, no team was willing to take on his contract. As a result, the Bears today parted ways with Peppers, terminating his deal with the team.
The Bears still owe Peppers roughly $8 million in dead money, so the club will clear a little more than $10 million in cap space with his departure. If GM Phil Emery designates Peppers one of the team's two June 1 cuts, which he almost assuredly will, the Bears can spread out that cash over the next two seasons at $4 million per year. That would clear $14 million in cap space for the 2014 season.
Peppers, the second overall pick of the Panthers in the 2002 draft, was signed as a free agent by the Bears in 2010, following eight seasons in Carolina. He set Panthers franchise records in sacks (81) and forced fumbles (30).
During four years with the Bears, Peppers racked up 175 total tackles, 37.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles and three interceptions, earning three trips to the Pro Bowl. The six-time All-Pro has been one of the most dominant forces in the league the past 12 years.
Peppers had just 7.0 sacks last season, the second fewest of his career, and appeared to have lost a step. His decline in production, coupled with an escalating salary, were the catalysts for his departure.
"We appreciate Julius' contributions to the Bears over the last four years," GM Phil Emery said in a statement. "He was a leader on our defense starting every game since coming to Chicago. His accomplishments over his NFL career place him among the best defensive ends over the past 20 years. The Chicagoland community has benefited greatly from his quiet generosity. We wish him the best."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is entering his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.