The Green Bay Packers defense has gotten a big jolt from a big name: Eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers.
The ex-Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears defensive end signed a three-year deal with the Packers on Saturday morning, bringing one of the NFL's best pass-rushers to a team that has historically avoided major free-agent splashes.
Peppers' agent, Carl Carey, posted photos to his Twitter account of Peppers signing the deal and standing on the still-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field before the team announced it officially later in the day.
The Packers would not make Peppers available to media.
"I haven't won a championship," Peppers told the Packers' website. "That's where my focus is. I feel like the team is set up to make a run and I feel I can help get it there."
Peppers went to the Super Bowl in 2003 with the Panthers, losing to the New England Patriots.
The 34-year-old Peppers was released Tuesday by the Bears in a cost-cutting move. Peppers would have counted $18.183 million against Chicago's salary cap this season and had a base salary of $13 million.
Peppers played in all 64 of the Bears' games the past four seasons, posting 37.5 sacks. His 7.5 sacks last season were his fewest since a career-low 2.5 sacks in 2007, but he still would have led the Packers in that category in 2012.
In Green Bay, Peppers is reunited with Mike Trgovac, who coached him for his first seven seasons in Carolina. Trgovac, the Packers' defensive line coach, was Peppers' defensive line coach as a rookie in 2002 and his defensive coordinator from 2003 through 2008.
JETS RE-SIGN PACE
The New York Jets have re-signed veteran linebacker Calvin Pace to a two-year deal, bringing back one of their sacks leaders from last season.
Pace had a career-high 10 sacks for Rex Ryan's defense— second only to Muhammad Wilkerson's 10½ — in his sixth season with the Jets. The 33-year-old outside linebacker was an unrestricted free agent.
Pace, who played his first five NFL seasons with Arizona, has 52 career sacks and has started every game the last three years. He is likely to be slated to start opposite Quinton Coples again this season.
The Jets cut Pace last offseason to save money under the salary cap before re-signing him last April. He rewarded them by having one of his best overall seasons, which included 53 tackles, two forced fumbles and three passes defensed.
WR EDELMAN RETURNS TO PATS
Wide receiver Julian Edelman says he's glad to be returning to the New England Patriots after a surprising breakout season.
Edelman became a free agent last week, but a post on his Twitter account said, "Foxboro is home. Excited to be back."
The Patriots don't always make official announcements when they reach contract agreements with their own players. Donald Yee, Edelman's agent, did not respond to requests for comment.
Edelman also was a free agent before last season and re-signed with the Patriots.
Expected to be behind newcomer Danny Amendola on the wide receiver depth chart last year, Edelman had a career-high 105 catches, six for touchdowns. In his four other seasons with the Patriots since being drafted in 2009, he had 69 receptions. He also had 16 catches and one touchdown in the Patriots two playoff games last season but fell short of the Super Bowl when they lost the AFC championship game to the Denver Broncos 26-16.
Edelman emerged as Tom Brady's top target after Wes Welker became a free agent before last season and signed with the Denver Broncos.
He also had another strong season as a punt returner. His average of 12.3 yards per return over the past five seasons is second best in the NFL, behind Devin Hester's 12.5.
Since free agency began on Tuesday, the Patriots have re-signed tight end Michael Hoomanwanui and added cornerback Brandon Browner as a free agent. They also reached agreement with free agent cornerback Darrelle Revis, a three-time All-Pro, according to his business manager, John Geiger.
GIANTS ADD THURMOND, DEMPS
The New York Giants bolstered their secondary by signing free agent safety Quintin Demps and cornerback Walter Thurmond.
Demps played for the Kansas City Chiefs last season and has previous stops in Philadelphia (two seasons) and Houston (three).
Last season, he was third in the NFL with a 30.1-yard kickoff return average on 33 runbacks, including a 95-yard touchdown at Washington on Dec. 8. He also led the Chiefs with four interceptions.
Demps entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft choice of the Eagles in 2008.
Thurmond spent his first four NFL seasons with Seattle, which selected him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft.
Thurmond played in 34 regular-season games with eight starts and made his only start in five postseason games in the Super Bowl. He was limited to six games in 2011 and two in 2012 because of injuries.
Last season, Thurmond played in 12 regular-season games with three starts. He missed four games while serving a suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Thurmond returned for the regular-season finale against St. Louis and played in all three postseason games.
SPIKES, DIXON GO TO BILLS
Running back Anthony Dixon is looking forward to carving a role for himself in Buffalo's talented backfield and teaming up with Buffalo's most significant free-agent addition, linebacker Brandon Spikes.
Both players agreed to terms on free-agent deals with the Bills.
Last night I was telling him I was coming and we need leaders, you need to come," Dixon said on a conference call Saturday afternoon.
"He signed too, so that is great. I'm a big fan of Spikes and we both are from the SEC so I've known about him. Now I'm just excited to get to work with him too."
Dixon and Spikes are the fifth and sixth free agents to sign in Buffalo in what has been a busy start to free agency. Spikes, however, is the most intriguing addition of them all.
Joining the Bills on a one-year contract, Spikes gives the Bills a physical, imposing presence in the middle of their defense. The 26-year-old is known for his ability to stop the run, addressing one of Buffalo's weakest areas from last season. Spikes had 86 tackles and one forced fumble last season in New England, his fourth with the Patriots.
The Bills finished 28th in the league against the run in 2013, allowing an average of 128.9 yards rushing per game. The defense is undergoing a transition under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who is taking over for Mike Pettine. Pettine left Buffalo after one season to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
Spikes is set to handle the middle of the field in a revamped group of linebackers. The Bills plan on moving young standout Kiko Alonso to the weak side after playing in the middle as a rookie, while free-agent addition Keith Rivers will take over strong-side duties.
Dixon gives the Bills added depth at running back and experience on special teams. Dixon ran for 458 yards and eight touchdowns in four years behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter with the San Francisco 49ers. He's joining another talented backfield in Buffalo, which finished second overall in rushing one year ago and features veterans Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
"I wanted to be somewhere where somebody was going to put me to work like I wanted," Dixon said. "I talked to (running backs coach Tyrone) Wheatley, I talked to coach (Doug) Marrone and that's their plan. ... I'm just looking to come in and show them what I can do and then it's up to them where they put me."
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