FOXBORO -- In hindsight, know who would have been a bomb-ass signing for the Patriots during the offseason? Julius Peppers.
That’s not exactly an earth-shattering take, as the Patriots are no strangers to signing stars at the end of their careers and Peppers is still a damn good player. With the Patriots’ questions on defense, the failed Kony Ealy experiment -- which is directly tied to Peppers -- and Cassius Marsh still finding his way, the 37-year-old Peppers would look pretty good on the roster right about now. Oh well.
After three years in Green, Peppers returned home to Carolina on a one-year, $3.5 million deal. It was a move that reunited the North Carolina native with the team that drafted him second overall in 2002, an organization with which the future Hall of Famer went to a Super Bowl and was a multiple-time All-Pro.
Through three games back with the Panthers, Peppers has 2.5 sacks. He’s averaged 10 sacks a season since 2008 and hasn’t had fewer than seven in that span. The Pats will see him Sunday.
“He’s been very productive for Carolina, then up in the NFC North and then back in Carolina again,” Bill Belichick said Friday. “They’ve used him a little bit inside, but he’s not only good defensively, he’s very good at blocking kicks, he’s a great field goal rusher."
Added Belichick: “He’s long, he’s very athletic. In some schemes, I’m sure he could play linebacker, could play outside linebacker. You talk about that kind of athlete, for as big as he is, as athletic as he is.”
The Panthers had Ealy and chose to discard him in favor of signing the aging Peppers. Carolina traded the 25-year-old Ealy, whom they chose 60th overall in 2014, to the Pats in a trade that moved the Panthers up eight spots from the early third round to the late second. Ealy didn’t make it through training camp with the Pats, as he was released and picked up by the Jets. Safe to say the Panthers' decision to sign Peppers and deal Ealy has worked better for them than it has for the Pats.