The Bears cut defensive end Julius Peppers on Tuesday, a transaction that had been expected since the season ended.
Peppers was due $13.9 million in base salary in 2014 and would have been a cap hit of $18.183 million. The move clears $9.8 million in cap space, while the Bears will eat the dead money amount of $8.366 million, according to Spotrac.
“We appreciate Julius’ contributions to the Bears over the last four years,” said GM Phil Emery 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.”
Peppers signed a 6-year, $84 million contract in 2010. In his four seasons, he started every game and had 37.5 sacks, 18 passes defensed, three interceptions and nine forced fumbles.
In 2013, Peppers had seven sacks, his lowest total in a full season since ’03. He had three games in which he did not record a single tackle.
The Bears signed defensive end Lamarr Houston on Tuesday. Corey Wootton is a free agent.
For all the uncertainty and intrigue over Julius Peppers in recent weeks, at the end of the day his release was a foregone conclusion unless his contract could be restructured, or, unless he was released and then elected to re-sign with the Bears. Is that the next move? It doesn't appear to be the case.
So where are the Bears now? The significantly undermanned defensive line at the end of last season featuring Peppers, Stephen Paea, Jeremiah Ratliff, Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin with David Bass, Landon Cohen, Cheta Ozugwhu and Cornelius Washington in reserve and Henry Melton and Nate Collins on injured reserve is now without Peppers, Wootton, Melton and Cohen, and McClellin is a linebacker. The Bears have added Lamarr Houston, Trevor Scott and Austen Lane. I have no idea how you can say it's been upgraded and one should probably argue it's worse.
It's also early and we have to give Phil Emery time to build his new defensive front. As we wait to see what's next this much is certain: with Ratliff, Paea and Collins set up as a potential tackle rotation and Houston actually more effective inside than he is outside, the Bears are overweighted at tackle and near desperate for ends and pass rush.
It will be fascinating to see what Emery finds left on the open market, and what Peppers finds there as well.