The Green Bay Packers lost outside linebacker Julius Peppers, with the NFL’s No. 4 all-time leading sacker reuniting on Friday with the team that drafted him, the Carolina Panthers.
One possible replacement would be Connor Barwin, who was released by the Eagles in a cost-cutting move. Barwin has had multiple teams in contact, according to a league source, and the Packers are one of the options.
In eight seasons, the 30-year-old Barwin has 50.5 career sacks. Last season, as a miscast defensive end in the Eagles’ 4-3 scheme, he had five sacks and, according to the official stats, 10 quarterback hits.
Barwin played as a 3-4 outside linebacker for the Eagles from 2013 through 2015. In 2013, he had five sacks, 10 tackles for losses, nine quarterback hits, 10 passes defensed and one forced fumble. In 2014, Barwin had a career-high 14.5 sacks, 15 tackles for losses, five passes defensed, 21 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. In 2015, Barwin contributed seven sacks, nine tackles for losses, seven passes defensed, 16 quarterback hits and one forced fumble.
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Much like the man he could potentially replace, Barwin is tough, having started all 16 games for the past six seasons.
Peppers, who turned 37 in January, had 7.5 sacks during the regular season and added one more in the playoffs. According to the team, he added a fifth-ranked 12 quarterback hits. In 15 seasons, he has 143.5 career sacks. He was a tremendous addition for the Packers as a street free agent in 2014, with 25 sacks in three seasons — including a prodigious first season in which he had seven sacks, 17 quarterback hits and trailed only J.J. Watt in turnover plays with four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
Peppers ranked sixth among edge rushers (3-4 outside linebackers/4-3 defensive ends) with a salary-cap charge of $10.5 million in 2016. On Thursday, the Packers re-signed Nick Perry with a five-year, $60 million contract. Clay Matthews ($15.075 million) and Perry ($5.855 million) have a combined cap charge of just less than $21 million for 2017.
Another option would be to re-sign Datone Jones, who had only one sack but led the team in quarterback hits last season.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.