Packers Pick Pass Rusher Peppers to Provide Pick-Me-Up

So I'm in the middle of co-hosting "In the Zone" on Saturday morning. Just threw it to our second break, at about 8:30. Looking at my phone, reading a text when Trent Tucker, watching the ESPN crawl, says, 'Davey, the Pack signed Julius Peppers.'

Now, Trent's not one to pull my leg. I looked up, missed the crawl, but jumped on Twitter and there it was. Made for a nice return to the show, where I could fire up the "breaking news" sounder and talk about what it might mean.

It's big news now, but we won't really know until next January whether it was a good move. What was reported as a 3 year, $30 million deal, is in reality a one-year $8.5 million deal. The contract was structured to count just $3.5 million against the cap in 2014. That's a very reasonable cap number for an aging, once great pass rusher, who will probably play hard in half the games. If he's healthy for the last quarter of the season and the playoffs, chances are he will be a factor for the Pack's one-note pass rush.

Now, those who know me know that I'm not one to covet former Bears (though a bargain basement one-year deal with Devin Hester would be just fine with me). I still think of Peppers as a Panther--that helps justify it in my mind. I also remember how close he came to ending the Pack's season on the final play of the week 17 game at Soldier Field, when John Kuhn got just enough of a chip on him to allow Aaron Rodgers to escape and find Randall Cobb for the division winning touchdown.

We all know the Packers need to find more playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. We hope that youngsters like Datone Jones, Mike Daniels, Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward make a jump. That Clay Matthews can stay healthy. And most importantly, that Ted Thompson identifies an impact safety in the first two rounds and an athletic inside linebacker not much later. If the Pack doesn't add a veteran tight end in the next month or so, that will be a draft priority as well.

But as we look back at the first week of free agency, you have to be satisfied with what Thompson has done. They were never in play for one of the high-priced safeties and they were able to re-sign five key guys: Shield, Raji, Neal, Quarless and Lattimore. The only loss as I write this is center Evan Dietrich-Smith (to the Bucs). It appears Jermichael Finley is close to a deal with the Seahawks.

The impending departure of Finley is disappointing, but not surprising. His health is in question and the Packers are notoriously cautious about moving forward with players who have suffered neck injuries. If he signs with Seattle, I'll wish him well (for 15 out of the 16 games) and hope he can continue to play the game he loves for as long as he wants to. The Pack likes what it sees in Brandon Bostick and if the safeties are gone in round one, but Eric Ebron from North Carolina is the pick. Packer fans will likely be saying 'Jermichael who?' by mid-season.

As for the center position, there are a few available veterans who have been starters. If Thompson passes on one of them, they'll likely look to let JC Tretter and Don Barclay compete to earn the job.

A week ago, it looked like Shields, Raji and Neal were headed elsewhere. Now they're all back and they welcome former foe Peppers, who reunites with Mike Trgovac and the Packers wait to find out if their low risk investment pays off in January when the lights are brightest.


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