To almost no one's surprise the Bears cut ties with eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers on Tuesday, freeing up nearly $10 million under this year's $133 million salary cap.
Peppers would have counted $18.2 million against this year's salary cap with a base of $13.9 million. Minus the $8.4 million the prorated portion of his signing bonus counts against the cap, the net difference for the Bears is $9.8 million.
Peppers made $53.5 million in the first four years of the six-year, $84 million deal he signed before the 2010 season. After notching double-digit sacks in five of the previous six seasons and requiring constant double-team attention from opponents on passing downs, Peppers' production dropped noticeably last season. His sack total fell to 7½, and he disappeared for long stretches, including the first nine games of the season when he had just 2 sacks and made 1 tackle or less in six different games.
"We appreciate Julius' contributions to the Bears over the last four years," Bears 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."
Peppers has started 184 games played over his 12 NFL seasons starting with the Panthers (2002-09), who drafted him in the first round, second overall, in 2002. During that time Peppers was second in the NFL with 118½ sacks. His 9 interceptions are the most by an NFL defensive lineman since 2002 and his 39 career forced fumbles are fifth most in the league overall during that time. On special teams, Peppers blocked 11 kicks during his career.
During his four seasons with the Bears, Peppers started all 64 contests, and totaled 38 sacks, 3 interceptions, 9 forced fumbles and 7 fumble recoveries.
Guard Kyle Long, the Bears' first-round draft choice last season, tweeted his farewell to the player who will one day join Long's father Howie in the Pro Football hall of Fame: "Gonna miss Pep," Long wrote. "One of my idols."