The Bears needed to remake their defense this offseason following the mess that was 2013.
In order to do that they made personnel changes, coaching changes and scheme tweaks. Hopefully these changes help improve one of the worst units in the league.
In making these moves the Bears let a familiar face leave when they cut Julius Peppers. The move was as much a money-saving move as it was releasing a player on the down slope. In all likelihood the Bears would have had Peppers back had they been able to get him to take a pay cut. Obviously the Bears had already asked Peppers to restructure his deal twice and asking him to take a straight pay cut wasn't going to fly.
The other factor was that Peppers, while on the wrong side of thirty at age 34, likely does have a couple of good seasons left in him. Last year he was forced to play 82 percent of the defensive snaps which, as weepingbear pointed out in this after season post, was more snaps than he had played in 2012.
These factors made cutting him a wise move; with the signing of Lamarr Houston, Peppers was no longer needed.
Following the team's free agency splashes of Houston and Willie Young, the Bears added Jared Allen. Allen is 32, just over two years younger than Peppers, and he should help replace the pass-rushing prowess that Peppers once had for Chicago.
Allen and Peppers are similar players in that both are known for their big sack numbers, but also because both rarely come off the field. Peppers number is mentioned above and Allen played 90 percent of the Vikings' defensive snaps. That kind of toughness and willingness to stay on the field is certainly admirable, but since both are above 30, it would be foolish of either player's team allowing them to stay on the field that much this season.
Allen had 11.5 sacks last year but there seemed to be some questions as to how much he had left in the tank. Hopefully for Chicago's sake he has a couple more double-digit sack seasons left in him, but the best way to get that potential might be to cut his snaps some.
For what it's worth, Allen is still motivated:
"Change is good if you allow it to be good. It definitely energizes you," Allen said. "For me, it’s the excitement of being part of something great. Minnesota was heading in a different direction than I thought my career, my life, my path is going. So I made the decision not to go back there. When I looked at the total equation, this was a place where I can be a part of something great. Personally, I don’t know if you call it selfishness or not, but I don’t want to be that guy who they feel like 'we shouldn’t have got him.' When I signed, I wasn’t going to be that guy that wasn’t worth the money."
But then again, so is Peppers. Late last month Brad Biggs checked in on Peppers at an OTA in Green Bay, noting that for the first time in his career he isn't the sole dominant pass-rusher now that he's paired with Clay Matthews. He also noted that the Packers were going to use Peppers in a hybrid capacity.
There has been a lot of talk about the Packers using Peppers in coverage, jamming tight ends at the line of scrimmage and dropping in short zones, but the reality is he was signed to get after the quarterback and that is what is intriguing for Capers with an experienced pro.
So Peppers could be revitalized by a new scheme, new teammates and a new role. He could have a big bounce back season by virtue of not having to be the guy and being able to compliment what Matthews does and contribute as a pass rush threat.
It's difficult for me to believe that Peppers will do a ton of coverage stuff. First of all, it's something he'd done very little of in his career and now, at age 34, I think it would be hard for him to take on new responsibilities and be athletic enough to be effective doing those things.
The Bears, on the other hand, will be counting on Allen to do what he does best, but likely with a little more rest than he's used to.
I think that Peppers could certainly have a big bounce back season and rack up double digit sacks, but I like the prospects of Allen being worth the money over the life of his contract.
So which player do you think has more left in the tank? Who will have the bigger 2014, Allen or Peppers?