During last night’s Seahawks-Packers broadcast on NBC, Cris Collinsworth was discussing Green Bay’s acquisition of Julius Peppers and his conversion to outside linebacker in a 3-4.
And as almost an aside, he dropped what would have been huge news in Peppers’ first NFL home.
“He was getting ready to go to Carolina, thinking he’d just go home and finish his career there,” Collinsworth said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “Then the Green Bay Packers called and said, ‘How’d you like to be a stand-up, 3-4 outside linebacker?’ And he said, ‘I’ve been waiting my whole life to do that.’”
Voth reports there were some preliminary talks between the team and the native-son defensive end, who came with the second pick in the 2002 NFL Draft and helped a team to two NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl, but left unceremoniously for Chicago after spending a year under a franchise tag he tried to fight.
The link with home is reasonable, since enough time has passed. Peppers also has a close relationship with defensive line coach Eric Washington, who he worked with in Chicago.
The Panthers apparently talked with Peppers’ camp about a return, and thought there was a chance to bring him back, even after using the franchise tag on Greg Hardy. But when the Packers offered a three-year, $26 million contract, he quickly became a luxury the Panthers couldn’t afford.
It’s fascinating to think about as it pertains to 2015 as well. The Panthers have committed 21 percent of this year’s salary cap to defensive ends Charles Johnson and Hardy. After this season, Hardy’s expected to leave, and Johnson may be asked to take a pay cut.
At that point, having Peppers would have been a nice fall-back option — at least it was before the Packers offered him more money and a chance to do something new.