UPDATE: Julius Peppers signed with the Green Bay Packers on March 15th.
While those in Carolina await the fate of wide receiver Steve Smith, another 34-year-old former star of the Panthers' 2003 Super Bowl team just got his walking papers.
Julius Peppers was released by the Chicago Bears Tuesday. It was the same old NFL story -- his production had dipped and his contract numbers were unsustainable after a couple of restructures that back-ended too much money into the final years of the deal.
Peppers started every game for Chicago in 2013 but had only seven sacks, his lowest since that incomprehensible season for Carolina in 2007 when he somehow managed to have only 2.5.
But, like Smith, Peppers can still play. I can't imagine the former No.2 pick of the Panthers in 2002 -- he played in Charlotte from 2002-09 before turning down a huge contract offer to go to the Bears instead -- is ready to retire.
Smith was such a fan of Peppers' stunning athletic ability that he once joked he was just glad to be able to stand next to Peppers in all the official team pictures -- since he was No.89 and Peppers was No.90, he always got to do so.
So should Carolina consider signing Peppers again, if he came cheaply? Absolutely the Panthers should. I know what you're saying, they already have all this money tied up in Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson and they've got some young defensive ends, too.
All that is true -- but pass-rushing is the name of the game on defense in the NFL. You can't have too many. Remember, I said only if Peppers comes cheap -- at a veteran-minimum type of price. Likely, he will command more than that, which would quickly put him out of the Panthers' price range (given Carolina's more pressing needs on the offensive line and at wide receiver).
But Peppers is extremely durable -- he has missed only four games due to injury in a dozen seasons (he missed four more as a rookie due to a suspension). The former UNC football and basketball player would never cause a speck of trouble in the locker room.
That said, Peppers is also a shy and unusual guy, and not a team leader type. He wanted out of Carolina badly by the time he left for Chicago, and so he's probably not interested in returning because he likes anonymity and he would be anything but anonymous here.
Still, the Panthers owe it to themselves to at least kick the tires on this one. And if by some miracle Peppers wants to return and wants to do it for very little money (in NFL terms), then that is something Carolina should seriously think about.
11 months ago