There was little question that defensive end Julius Peppers wouldn't be back with the Bears this season, not at his salary. Any doubt was erased when Chicago dropped $35 million on defensive end Lamarr Houston a few minutes after free agency started.
Still, it's a bit of a shock to see an eight-time Pro Bowl player cut, as Peppers was by the Bears on Tuesday. The team announced the move.
Peppers, whose 118.5 career sacks puts him in line to be a Hall of Fame candidate when he's done playing, spent four years with the Bears. He had just seven sacks this past season, and at 34 he was deemed expendable. His $13.9 million base salary for this year was never going to be paid by the Bears. It will be interesting to see if there's a market for him at an advanced age, after a down year.
“We appreciate Julius’ contributions to the Bears over the last four years,” Bears general manager 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.”
Peppers was not the only potential future Hall of Famer cut on Tuesday. The Cowboys dumped DeMarcus Ware after nine seasons with the team. And according to numerous reports Dallas also cut receiver Miles Austin, who isn't on the level of Peppers or Ware but was still a productive receiver for a few years on the rare occasion he wasn't hurt. And they probably won't be the last veterans to get cut as teams usher in new free-agent signees.
The Titans still haven't made a decision on running back Chris Johnson, who doesn't seem to be part of the team's plans anymore, but remains on the roster. The same goes for Panthers receiver Steve Smith, whose time in Carolina might be running out. Of course, the Buccaneers are apparently willing to cut cornerback Darrelle Revis, which would create a frenzy to sign one of the NFL's best players.
It's a good lesson for the players who signed huge deals during today's madness. Just because you're the hot new acquisition today doesn't mean you won't be cut before that contract is finished. It happens to even the best of them.
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