Julius Peppers highlights Bears’ aggressive free agent moves

By S.C. Zuba
Sports Columnist

Miracles can happen.

In one of the most exciting starts to free agency in recent memory, the Chicago Bears landed not one, not two, but three key free agents to help the team in its 2010 campaign.

In the days preceding the start of NFL free agency, rumors began to swirl that the Bears were interested in Julius Peppers, the 30-year-old defensive end from the Carolina Panthers. If you’re anything like me, or have followed the Bears closely in recent years, you probably just shrugged these reports off.

The thought of the Bears actually signing Peppers, the top free agent in an uncapped year, is almost incomprehensible; yet, at the stroke of 11:01 Friday evening, March 5, the Bears sent an offer to Peppers that was good enough to get him on an airplane headed to Chicago. Actually, Lovie Smith flew to Carolina to pick Peppers up and bring him to Chicago.

Brilliant. Genius. Well done, Bears.

The Bears made it clear when Peppers committed to meeting with them that he would not be leaving Chicago without his signature on a contract. They were determined to get this deal done. He was their guy, and because of that, Peppers received the largest deal in free agency—a six-year deal that could be worth up to $91.5 million.

Peppers has registered at least 10 sacks in six of his eight NFL seasons, including a career-high 14.5 in 2008. In 2009, Peppers added to his stat sheet by registering 10.5 sacks, giving him 25 for the two years—a feat no Chicago Bears player has done since Richard Dent did it in 1986-1987.

And Peppers wasn’t even the only free agent the Bears had their eyes on.

Running back Chester Taylor, the seasoned veteran from Minnesota, signed with the Bears shortly before the team announced they had landed Peppers. Taylor is entering his ninth season in the NFL, and has backed up the illustrious Adrian Peterson for the past three seasons.

Also on the Bears docket for last Friday was nine-year veteran Brandon Manumaleuna. Manumaleuna, 6-foot-2, 295-pounds, played under offensive coordinator Mike Martz in St. Louis and is considered one of the best blocking tight ends in the league.

The Chicago Bears shocked the world last weekend. They needed to be active and aggressive in free agency with no first- or second-round picks in this year’s NFL Draft. They did what they needed to do.

Share your thoughts with S.C. Zuba via e-mail at samuelczuba@yahoo.com.

From the Mar. 10-16, 2010

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