After finishing tied for 23rd in the NFL with just 31 sacks last season, the Patriots are in need of an elite pass rusher. Former Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers appears to be atop their wish list.
The Patriots are one of three teams that submitted offers to the 30-year-old Peppers in the early hours of free agency, NFL.com’s Jason LaCanfora reported via Twitter on Friday. The Chicago Bears are believed to be the favorites to land the five-time Pro Bowler, with the Philadelphia Eagles in the mix as well. Contrary to earlier reports, the Washington Redskins are not pursuing Peppers.
Peppers — the second overall pick in the 2002 draft — has played his entire career with the Panthers, amassing 81 sacks in 122 games, including 25 over the past two seasons. Standing 6-foot-7 and weighing 283 pounds, Peppers is a menace for opposing offensive linemen, although his focus and effort have occasionally come into question.
New England could be an attractive destination for Peppers, because he has indicated a desire to convert from defensive end to outside linebacker, and move from Carolina’s 4-3 scheme to a team that runs a 3-4 alignment. Bill Belichick's defensive playbook fits the bill, and Peppers would compensate for the lack of production from the Patriots’ linebackers last season.
Peppers is headed to Chicago to visit with the Bears on Friday, ESPN.com reports. Given the slew of offers already on the table, Peppers may sign before the weekend is out.