CHARLOTTE, N.C. — We received a lot of great questions about the Carolina Panthers for a slow offseason Friday, but this one about defensive end Julius Peppers from “Wolfpack Bob” intrigued me the most.
The simple answer is no, the 37-year-old Peppers is not too old to be of value. He had 7.5 sacks last season for the Green Bay Packers. That would have ranked second on the Panthers last season to Mario Addison with 9.5.
I liken this situation to another aging veteran defensive end who signed with the Panthers at the end of his career. You might have heard of him — Reggie White.
The “Minister of Defense” was entering his 15th NFL season when he joined the Panthers in 2000. He was 38 and would turn 39 before the end of the year.
But he kept himself in great shape, just as Peppers has, and was a force for opposing offenses.
White had only 5.5 sacks, the lowest of his career, during his swing through Charlotte. But he was of great value even though he played on a bad team that went 7-9. He started 16 games and was a great mentor for a second-year end named Mike Rucker.
Rucker went on to finish with 55.5 career sacks, which still ranks third in team history. Having time to develop behind White as a part of a rotation was invaluable.
Peppers, Carolina’s career sacks leader, will fill a similar role in a four-man rotation that will include, in some form, Addison, Charles Johnson, Wes Horton, Ryan Delaire and rookie Daeshon Hall.
In particular, he will be invaluable for the leadership he provides for Delaire and Hall, being groomed for the future.
Peppers also will contribute as an every-down end. Defensive line coach Eric Washington recently told the team website that Peppers looked as good as he did seven years ago with the Chicago Bears.
Peppers might not be at the level he was in 2008 when he had a career-best 14.5 sacks in his first go-round with the Panthers. But he’s still a valuable addition to this defense for this season, and, with a little luck, the next two.