Julius Peppers is returning to the Carolina Panthers for at least one more year, and it could be the end of an era for some of the franchise's most familiar faces.
Peppers, 38, has re-signed with the team on a one-year deal, and it could be his final season in the NFL. Already, Panthers teammates Thomas Davis and Ryan Kalil have said that 2018 will be their final seasons. The team also has bid goodbye to old friends Jonathan Stewart and Charles Johnson.
This could be the cap for a Hall of Fame career for Peppers, and if 2017 was any indication he still has gas in the tank. Notching 11 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries is terrific production for any player, much less a then-37-year-old playing with a bad shoulder.
Peppers is recovering from surgery on the labrum in his right shoulder but is expected to be ready to work at some point during the offseason program. Of course, the Panthers likely will play it safe with him and not ask him to do much before training camp.
First-year defensive coordinator Eric Washington coached Peppers as the Panthers' DL coach in 2017 in his first season back in Carolina — following stints with the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers — and has to be excited to get him back for (at least) one more year. The Panthers ranked third in the NFL with 50 sacks.
Currently fourth on the NFL's all-time sack list with 154.5, Peppers is within striking range of Hall of Famer Kevin Greene, who finished his career with 160. Since the sack became an official statistic in 1983, only three players in their age-38 season (or older) have notched more than six sacks — Clay Matthews (6.5) with the Atlanta Falcons in 1996, Chris Doleman (eight) with the Minnesota Vikings in 1998 and Bruce Smith (nine) with Washington in 2002.