Move expected given Peppers’ salary against the cap.
The Chicago Bears have released veteran defensive end Julius Peppers after he spent four years with the franchise as they look to bolster their roster.
The 34-year-old was set to receive a base salary of $13.9m in 2014 and count $18.183m against the cap, and with the Bears moving to sign former Oakland Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston to a five-year deal worth $35m, it seemed inevitable that Peppers would move on.
After being drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the first round of the 2002 draft, Peppers spent four years in Chicago after signing a big-money six-year deal worth $84m in 2010. While he restructured his contract twice during his stay to give the franchise more salary cap room, his cap number continued to grow in the last years of the contract.
As a result, the Bears felt that those numbers were not sustainable moving forward as they also tied down quarterback Jay Cutler to a significant deal at the end of last season, but losing Peppers is undoubtedly a blow on the field.
The veteran star led the team last season with 7.5 sacks, despite that being the fewest he had in a Bears uniform in a season, while overall he had 118.5 career sacks which ranks him second in the league since entering in 2002.
In those four years in Chicago, he started every game for the franchise (64) and made the Pro Bowl every season except in 2013.
“We appreciate Julius’ contributions to the Bears over the last four years,” 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.”
The move saves the Bears $14m in total compensation in 2014 and $16.5m in 2015 while Peppers’ agent insisted that despite the disappointment of leaving Chicago, his client was in good spirits regarding his future.