Julius Peppers: Is his time in Green Bay coming to an end?

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Julius Peppers is a step away from knocking ball from DeMarco Murray in the Packers 2014 playoff game against the Cowboys at Lambeau Field. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Julius Peppers has been the type of player who, even in his mid-30s, has shown the younger guys a thing or two about making big plays.

Need a sack?

Peppers has been there to provide.

If fact, his 8.5 sacks this season, albeit somewhat quiet, has been second on the team only to Nick Perry’s career-high 11.

One could say that Peppers has outperformed Clay Matthews and the rest of the younger guys on the team.

Clearly, Peppers is a future Hall-of-Famer, and it appears from his lack of injuries and willingness to take on new roles that he could play easily until he’s 40.

The question is whether the Packers want to carry a salary for a guy who has become the role player on the team.

But what a role player he has played.

When injuries to Clay Matthews and Nick Perry came about in 2016, Peppers, with all his experience and savvy, stepped in to fill those voids.

With 25 sacks over three years in Green Bay; Peppers has moved into fifth place on the NFL’s career sack list. He has 147 in his career, 81 that came during his time in Carolina and 36 during his time in Chicago.

Add to those numbers his 4.5 playoff sacks with Green Bay and one could say that the move by Packers GM Ted Thompson to sign Peppers three years ago after Chicago let him walk was a stroke of genius.

But now that the Packers have, at most, just two games left in the 2016 season, the Packers may be ready to move on.

With the improved play by Nick Perry and the fact that Clay Matthews is signed through 2018, as well as the marked impact of free agent Datone Jones, the Packers may be more inclined to go with the younger set.

Throw in the drafting of Kyler Fackrell and the spotty big plays by Jayrone Elliott, Peppers just may be the odd man out when the offseason finally hits in Green Bay.

Or is he?

Well, one thing is probably a given … if the Packers win the Super Bowl, Peppers may just call it a career.

Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Julius Peppers sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the second half at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Packers 33-32. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Julius Peppers sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the second half at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Packers 33-32. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

If the Packers don’t win the Super Bowl, maybe he hangs on either in Green Bay or with another Super Bowl-contending team in an attempt to get that ring.

But in the end, we expect that the only way he stays in Green Bay is if he takes a significant cut in his salary. His role was reduced this year and it’s expected that role would stay the same or be even more reduced if he continues with the Packers.

But he would be missed by the fans and by his teammates.

Consider what Micah Hyde recently said about Peppers …

“Peppers is a freak, man. He’s like 45 years old, and he’s still doing what he has to do. We see it every day in practice. He’s a freak. That’s plain and simple.”

But will the freak have enough in him to come back for a 16th season? There have been few defensive linemen who have stuck around that long in this violent game.

So, as the Packers strap it up for their second NFC Championship Game in the past three years, we should all take a few moments to watch and appreciate Peppers and what he has brought to the franchise.

It may be the final time #56 hits the field for Green Bay.

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