Julius Peppers did everything but win Super Bowl with Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Three years. Twenty-five sacks. No missed games.

It’s safe to say the Green Bay Packers got more from Julius Peppers than they could have imagined when they signed him three years ago.

The only thing Peppers didn’t get was the Super Bowl ring he covets to cap what should be a Hall of Fame career.

That’s why Peppers came to Green Bay after Chicago cut him in 2014. He viewed it as his best chance to get back to the Super Bowl. And he came close. Twice. A pair of NFC Championship Game losses -- the crushing overtime loss in Seattle following the 2014 season and the blowout in Atlanta this year -- was the best Peppers could do.

Now, he’ll make another run at one with Carolina, his original team and the one he lost a Super Bowl with in his second NFL season. His agent, Carl Carey, announced Friday that Peppers will return to Carolina and play for the team that drafted him in 2002.

It didn’t take long for Peppers to find a team that wanted him. Just four days earlier, Carey made it known in an interview with ESPN.com that Peppers intended to play a 16th NFL season.

Early last season, it seemed like Peppers' time in Green Bay -- and perhaps in the NFL -- might be nearing an end. The Packers turned him into a part-time player. But late in the season, Peppers looked fresh and began to make a bigger impact. On the way to moving into fifth on the NFL's career sack list with 143 1/2, Peppers recorded 7 1/2 sacks during the 2016 regular season. That ranked second on the team to Nick Perry, who was re-signed on Thursday to a five-year, $60 million deal. Peppers added another sack in the playoffs, giving him 4 1/2 in seven postseason games with the Packers.

Peppers didn’t want last season's playoff run to be about him, but there was plenty of sentiment in the Packers' locker room to get him that ring. That he was elected a playoff captain by his teammates all three years in Green Bay spoke to the respect they had for him.

"That's good locker room talk and things of that sort, but at the end of the day, we're all playing for each other," Peppers said during the playoff run. "I really don't know what to say about it. I want these guys to play for themselves more than anything, because that's the goal for all of us. There's only a few of us in here who have them, so we all should be playing for ourselves and each other. I don't want them to get caught up in trying to do it for me, because we all should want to do it for ourselves."

In the end, Peppers’ three-year run in Green Bay will be a mere footnote in a storied career.

When the Packers signed him to a three-year, $26 million deal in 2014, many doubted whether he would play beyond that first year. He turned out to be the team’s most significant free-agent signing since Charles Woodson in 2006. Woodson finally got a ring with the Packers before he went back to the Raiders to finish his career. Peppers, however, is still looking.