Before the 2013 season began, Bears defensive end Julius Peppers dropped his base salary from $12.9 million to $9.9 million.
Come 2014, the Bears likely will drop it all the way to zero.
Peppers, who has only one sack this season, is due to make $13.9 million next year, as part of an $18.1 million cap charge. With the market for veteran pass rushers drying up and Peppers on the brink of turning 34, it’s hard to imagine the Bears being willing to pay even half that amount to keep Peppers around.
Bears G.M. Phil Emery, who was hired after Peppers was signed, gave a lukewarm assessment of Peppers’ performance this season.
“Julius, in his words and my words, we want him to continue to improve where he’s at as a player,” Emery said. “I’ve seen some great individual plays and I think he wants to improve his consistency and so do the rest of us.”
Treating Peppers as a post-June 1 cap casualty would spread the cap consequences evenly over 2014 and 2015, at $4.183 million per year. That’s more than $8 million in dead money, but still a lot less than what it will cost by way of cash and cap dollars to keep Peppers around.
Last year, veteran pass rushers on the right side of 30 weren’t able to cash in. It’s hard to imagine anyone giving Peppers big money — and it’s easy to wonder whether he decides to finish his career with a sweetheart deal in Carolina, especially since the Panthers are becoming relevant.
Or maybe he’ll just lay on his giant pile of money, Huell Babineaux-style.