UNC in the NFL: Julius Peppers doesn’t need to retire any time soon

SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Julius Peppers
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Julius Peppers /

Julius Peppers continues to play at a high level despite 16 years of service

When Julius Peppers returned to the Carolina Panthers in 2017 on a one-year contract, many thought it would be the final season of his illustrious career.

With the way he’s played through the first five weeks of the NFL season, though, Peppers appears to have enough gas left in the tank to keep playing, if he so chooses.

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The contract that he signed with the Panthers to return home, isn’t unlike many of the contracts that veterans on the downhill side of their career often see. It’s extremely team-friendly, but loaded with incentives for the future Hall-of-Famer to rack up extra cash.

His base salary in 2017 is $3.5 million, but has the potential to be worth as much as $4.25 million. To collect on the latter amount, Peppers will have to take down opposing quarterbacks more than he’s done in any season since 2012.

He will earn an additional $250,000 if he finishes the season with seven sacks. That number increases to $500,000 if he collects nine sacks, and $750,000 if he reaches 11 sacks.

And although 11 sacks may have seemed like an insurmountable feat at the beginning of the season, it’s looking a lot more realistic after the team’s first five games.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 08: Quarterback Matthew Stafford
DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 08: Quarterback Matthew Stafford /

Peppers leads the Panthers with 5.5 sacks, which is half way to the 11 sacks he needs in order to maximize the bonuses in his contract. And considering he’s accomplished that in less than a third of the season, the odds are in his favor.

Given the success he’s having this season, playing with a youthful exuberance, it begs the question: “Why would he retire after this season?”

With his five-plus sacks this season, his career total now sits at 149.

It’s highly unlikely that Peppers could play productive football long enough to challenge Bruce Smith or Reggie White for first or second place, but he’s just 11 sacks outside of third place, which is a definite possibility.

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And while Peppers’ plans at this time are unknown, it’s evident that he could certainly continue playing football for at least another season or two. However, after the season that he is currently having, the team that signs him will probably have to ante up for his services.