Bears GM Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman said last month that “decisions are made when they have to be made,” answering questions about the future of Julius Peppers in a Bears uniform.
On Tuesday, with multiple signings that included Peppers’ replacement at right defensive end, a decision had to be made. The Bears terminated Peppers’ contract after four years as the anchor of the defensive line for the past four seasons.
“We appreciate Julius’ contributions to the Bears over the last four years,” GM 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.”
The Peppers exit had been expected since even before the 2013 season ended, one in which he finished with 7.5 sacks, his lowest since 2007. Fittingly perhaps, his final Bears sack came against the Green Bay Packers in game 16, forcing an Aaron Rodgers fumble that no Bears players thought to pick up, thinking it an incomplete pass.
Green Bay receiver Jarrett Boykin did pick up the loose ball and run it in for a touchdown in a five-point Bears loss that cost them the NFC North championship.
Peppers started 184 of 186 games played over 12 seasons with Carolina (2002-2009) and Chicago (2010-13), ranking second in the NFL during that time with 118.5 sacks. He has added nine interceptions which are the most by an NFL defensive lineman since 2002 and his 39 career forced fumbles are fifth most in the league overall during that time. On special teams, Peppers has added 11 blocked kicks during his career.
During his time with the Bears, Peppers started all 64 contests, pacing the team with 38 sacks, adding three interceptions, nine forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.