Defensive end Julius Peppers is coming back to the Carolina Panthers.
The future Hall-of-Famer has signed a one-year deal worth $5 million, including $2.5 million guaranteed, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.
Peppers, 38, will play his 17th NFL season in 2018.
Peppers tied for the team lead with 11 sacks last season and passed Chris Doleman for fourth place on the all-time sacks list. Peppers also forced two fumbles and recovered two fumbles, despite playing with a labrum injury that required surgery after the season.
Peppers said in January he wanted to take some time to think about whether he would play another season. Team officials weren’t sure about Peppers’ plans until recently when he indicated he intended to play another year.
Peppers signed an incentive-laden deal with the Panthers last year, and proceeded to max out on the incentives to make a total of $4.25 million. But the deal he signed early Wednesday afternoon includes no incentives, which were essentially rolled into his salary, according to the source.
Peppers has made $165 million and is the highest-earning, non-quarterback in league history, according to SI.com’s NFL business analyst Andrew Brandt.
Peppers, who has 154.5 career sacks, could pass former Panther and Hall-of-Famer Kevin Greene (160) for third on the NFL sacks list with another productive season in 2018. That would leave him behind only Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198).
Peppers, the No. 2 overall choice in the 2002 draft, re-joins a defensive end rotation that also includes Mario Addison and Wes Horton. General manager Marty Hurney will keep looking for another end after cutting veteran Charles Johnson last month.
The Panthers were judicious with Peppers’ practice reps last season, and it’s expected he will again be given the flexibility to essentially set his own schedule.
Peppers has played in 250 career games, tied for the seventh-most of any defensive player in NFL history. The nine-time Pro Bowler has played in 160 consecutive games, the second-longest current streak among defensive players.
Peppers is already the Panthers’ all-time leader in three categories – sacks (92), forced fumbles (31) and blocked field goals (eight). His nine fumble recoveries as a Panther are second on the team’s career list.