When Julius Peppers signed with the Green Bay Packers, he did so with a contract that guarantees him $7.5 million this season and will add $1 million in salary. It was part of a three-year deal ostensibly worth $30 million, with very little likelihood that Peppers sees all $30 million, maybe not even the three years. Those numbers aren't really the point.
Longtime NFL chronicler Bob McGinn up at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and inducted in 2011 into the writers' section of the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a McCann Award winner, points out the real key in the deal: Peppers' cap number for 2014 is believed to be all of $3.5 million.
All of which raises a vexing question:
If Peppers was willing to play for something in the general range of what amounts to a 50-percent pay cut, why didn’t that happen in Chicago?
Probably for a couple of reasons.
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Former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, a Wednesday regular as NFL Insider for “Kap & Haugh” on WGWG-87.7’s “The Game,” said that a player will commonly take less from another team than they would from their home team. “There’s a pride factor,” Angelo said, noting that players reason that they feel they’ve given a lot to their home team and ought to be offered more from a team they’ve helped than one they’re going to for the first time.
Angelo posited another reality while talking about why Charles Tillman didn’t sign with Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but one that is worth considering in the Peppers situation.
Tillman is looking for a finish to a distinguished career; but Smith, a consummate believer in Tillman, is building a team for the future (the Bucs signed six players, all starters, in the first week of free agency) and “by the time the Buccaneers are where they want to be, Charles won’t be with them.”
The latter possibility for why the Bears might not have exhausted all efforts to have Peppers back is a little harder see; the Bears are in fact close to competing for the “multiple championships” set as the franchise target by Emery. (Those “championships,” by the way, can included NFC North ones and NFC titles, not just Super Bowls. Emery seems to draw some ridicule for the “championships” statement; he shouldn’t.)
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Angelo said that it is often easier for a new team to put a bag of money on the table and say, “This is what we can afford to pay you,” and that’s what it is. When the player’s own team does the exact same thing, you have a Brian Urlacher being insulted by a perceived “ultimatum.”
The result, using Jerry’s perspectives as someone who went through these things many times, was that the Packers theoretically had a significantly better chance of Peppers taking their bag of money than the same bag from the Bears.
“[The Packers] certainly didn’t pay what we paid when we signed him [in 2010],” Angelo said. “But I will say I think it was a very good signing by Green Bay. They’ve never really had a secondary rusher to go along with Clay Matthews. Peppers will give them that now. He can still play. We know that, even though his production tailed off last year. He’s still a good football player.
“When you team him up now with a Clay Matthews, you’re probably going to see the best of what Peppers is because teams won’t just be focusing on him and they’ve got to deal with Matthews first.”
Probably not what the Bears and Jay Cutler wanted to hear.