Julius Peppers hopes Packers bring him back next season

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers structured the three-year contract that Julius Peppers signed in March in a way that would make it easy for them to move without him after only one season.

The veteran pass-rusher hopes that's not the case.

When asked Friday whether he wants to come back to the Packers for another year, Peppers said: "Of course."

At age 34 and in his 13th NFL season, Peppers said he's not at the end of his career yet.

"I'm near the end," he said. "I'm somewhere near the end."

But not at it.

So now it will be up to the Packers to decide whether he's worth the $9.5 million he's scheduled to make in 2016. The terms of the three-year, $26 million contract that he signed last March after the Chicago Bears released him call for Peppers to be paid an $8.5 million base salary next season plus another $1 million in bonuses ($500,000 in roster bonuses and another $500,000 workout bonus). Combined with his prorated signing bonus, his salary-cap figure for next season is $12 million.

However, if they released him, that would be wiped off the books, and the Packers would only have to count the remaining $5 million of his signing-bonus proration, so they would gain $7 million in cap space.

It's also possible the deal could be renegotiated or Peppers could change his mind, say, if he gets the Super Bowl title he covets.

Peppers has given the Packers perhaps more than they initially hoped, at least in terms of playing time. Back in March, coach Mike McCarthy said he had no intention of playing Peppers the 865 snaps that the Bears did last season. However, Peppers is on pace to come close. He has averaged 53 snaps per game, which would equate to 848 plays if he were to stay healthy the rest of the season.

"I wasn't really sure the plan when I came in; I don't think any of us were," Peppers said. "It was an experiment, a project. Once we got into it, adjustments are always made to the schedule, the playing time, the position, scheme, stuff like that. I think we all have found a balance of playing time, and I think it's cool with everybody."

Peppers leads the Packers with five sacks and has shown his versatility in his new outside linebacker position by picking of two passes, both of which he returned for touchdowns.

He hasn't been listed on an injury report or missed a day of practice this season.

"Honestly, I'm taking this thing one day at a time, and at the end of the year we'll re-evaluate where I'm at where, where the team is at, which direction they're going, which direction I want to go," Peppers said. "So as of right now, I'm having fun and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."