A formal announcement is expected at 5:00 PM Friday afternoon that introduces DE Julius Peppers as a member of the Chicago Bears.
If the money doesn't make you say "Wow," the impact he could have on the Chicago defense in 2010 should.
We're not going to look long-term at the potential for Peppers, 30, to be effective for the full six years of the new deal, but specifically at what he could mean to the Monsters of the Midway. And for the immediate future, this deal might impact more players than any other free agent signing this spring.
Whenever a marquee player is added to a group, whether by trade of free agency, it comes with a trickle down throughout not only the roster that player is joining, but also the division. This deal is no different.
Peppers was the captain of the defense in Carolina and is one of the best pass rushing ends in the NFL. Look at some of the numbers from the NFC North last year. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers was sacked an NFL-high 50 times in 2009. Brett Favre also ranked in the NFL's ten most-sacked quarterbacks last year, being tackled for a loss 34 times. Indeed, the only regular starting quarterback in the North that didn't make the top ten was Matthew Stafford (24), but when you add Daunte Culpepper's sack total (14) to that number, 38 would easily land in the top third of the league.
Let's take a step back from those raw numbers. Chad Clifton is taking job interviews in cities outside of Wisconsin. If he leaves Green Bay, Rodgers will likely have more unintentional green on his Packers' jerseys next season. In the last four years, Peppers has five sacks in three games against the Vikings. And Detroit? C'mon now...
Adding Peppers to the invisible defensive front in Chicago will absolutely have a negative impact on Rodgers, Stafford and whomever is under center in Minnesota.
Now let's look around the Bears' defense. If Tommie Harris needed motivation to stay in shape and perform, he just got it in the form of a 6'7 end. If Harris wasn't effective because he was being doubled on every snap, that's no longer an excuse. If Alex Brown struggled to get to the quarterback because opposing teams were chipping on him with a running back, H-back or tight end, that's over. Peppers will join Jared Allen as the most noticeable defensive linemen on the division, and will be the focus over the other three offensive lines' game plan every week.
So not only is Peppers, a fantastic end, coming into a division that does a terrible job protecting their quarterbacks, but there are other productive players on the Bears' line that will benefit from the addition.
Consider, also, that Brian Urlacher plans to come back from his devastating wrist injury in 2010. All indications were that Urlacher was over his back and neck issues from 2008 and was ready to have a bounce-back season in 2009, but the wrist injury early in Week One ruined his season. If Urlacher comes back his average from the last few years, and you factor in the pressure on opposing quarterbacks, Urlacher could have a huge season.
Lance Briggs is an elite outside linebacker in any scoring format. With Peppers either in front of him or on the other side of the line, there's no question that Briggs will see fewer clean blocks. Briggs just received an addition to his fantasy value.
The Bears still have some questions to answer in their secondary, but whomever is playing safety or corner is going to get some help as well.
Peppers makes everyone around him on the Bears defense better, and the overall numbers for the Bears unit as a DEF will be better as well.
The production shouldn't only be from the 10 players on the defense not-named Peppers, though. Peppers is a ballhawk who forces a ton of fumbles, much like Bears' corner Charles Tillman. How do you think poor Adrian Peterson feels today? Not only does he lose Chester Taylor (to Chicago as well), but now he has another player hungry to rip the ball out of his loose grip. Oh, and Stafford? He won't sleep for eight months (intentionally).
The IDP impact of Peppers into Chicago is huge across the board. Keep an eye on the rest of the free agent market, but this addition by the Bears will play a major role on a number of players' fantasy value in 2010.