Posted by: Shaun Dolence
The Player: Julius Peppers
The Reason: There is no substitute for a great pass rusher – one might conclude that the success of a defensive backfield depends on the defense’s ability to pressure the opposing quarterback. For example, the 2007-08 Seahawks achieved 45 sacks during the season, and the result was a 15th ranked defense (219.1 passing yards allowed per game). In 2008-09, the Seahawks sacked the quarterback 35 times – 13 in two games against the 49ers – and ranked 30th overall in total defense (32nd overall pass defense at 259.3 yards per game). Last season, our inability to apply consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback resulted in our defensive backfield receiving an abundance of criticism (some warranted). Whether this can be blamed on John Marshall’s conservative scheme or unfortunate injuries is debatable.
Julius Peppers, a freakishly athletic defensive end, has the skills and ability to fill our pass rushing void. At 6’7”, 283 pounds, he is a couple of inches taller and nearly twenty pounds heavier than Patrick Kerney, but still displays more speed and quickness. Last year, Peppers moved to the right defensive end spot and tallied 14.5 sacks, and currently holds the franchise record in Carolina for most in a career. It is also worth mentioning that he is only 29 years old, so he still has something left in the tank.
With a healthy Patrick Kerney hopefully returning next season, bringing in Julius Peppers would allow the Hawks to pressure opposing quarterbacks without blitzing. Imagine Kerney at left end, Peppers at right end, and a rotation that included Lawrence Jackson and Darryl Tapp, occasionally plugging Julian Peterson in for nickel and other packages. That sounds just fine to me!
The Problem: As with other big name free agents, Julius Peppers comes with a large price tag. He is likely on his way out of Carolina, and will command top dollar on the market. Pass rushing defensive ends with exceptional skills, especially at his age, generally receive excessive demand from teams around the league. A superior pass rush is irreplaceable, and you are unlikely to find a franchise that will pass on a talented defensive end. This is unfortunate for the Seahawks if they’re looking to bring in Peppers … are they willing to pay top dollar to sign him?
After persuading Patrick Kerney to come to Seattle and spending high draft picks on Darryl Tapp and Lawrence Jackson, is it even necessary to spend more money on another defensive end? Tapp has shown promise, and Jackson played well at times during his rookie campaign. With a quick glance at the current depth chart, it appears that there isn’t much room for another end. Regardless of Pepper’s incredible ability, it may actually be counterproductive to bring in another talented player and invest so much money into one position. It could also be argued that signing Julius Peppers might negatively impact the younger players, leaving them with a more diminished role on defense and hampering their development.
Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to mention that Peppers has openly expressed his desire to play in a 3-4 style of defense, where he feels his skills are better suited.
Bottom Line: Julius Peppers has told the Carolina Panthers that he would like to pursue an opportunity elsewhere. He wants to achieve full potential as an NFL player, and feels that a change of scenery could be beneficial. Whether Seattle is a good spot for him is to be determined; he’ll have to look elsewhere for a 3-4 defense, and it is unlikely that Ruskell will pay his inflated market value.
Although Peppers has said he wants out of Carolina, it is unlikely the Panthers will let him walk without receiving any compensation. If Peppers does become a free agent, however, it has been rumored that the Seahawks may have some interest. It will all come down to what we can offer (or CAN’T offer), and if Julius is even interested in coming to Seattle.
Other Options: Terrell Suggs (Ravens), Chris Canty (Cowboys), Bertrand Berry (Cardinals), Antonio Smith (Cardinals)