The Chicago Bears have landed the prize of the NFL free agent market by signing the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers. The terms of the deal were not made public, but it is believed to be worth US$79.8 million (Dh 292m) over six years, with Peppers guaranteed $40m over the first three seasons.
"I'm excited to be here and looking forward to doing big things," Peppers said on Friday. "Getting to come to a place with a deep-rooted tradition in winning is a wonderful thing for me. "It's one thing to play football in this league and make a living. But it's a totally different thing to come to a place with a great tradition and a rich football culture like the Bears." Peppers, 30, has played his entire NFL career with the Carolina Panthers, who selected him with the second pick of the 2002 draft.
The 6ft 7in, 283-pound Peppers had 81 sacks during his eight years with the Panthers, including 10.5 last season. "For our defence to be successful we have to be able to get pressure up front," said Lovie Smith, the Bears' head coach. "I'm talking with the four-man rush first, and then of course the blitz, when we want to blitz. Being able to generate pressure from the front four is huge. Julius will help all of our players."
The Bears have not made the play-offs since reaching the Super Bowl the 2006-07 season, when they lost 29-17 to the Indianapolis Colts. The team, whose great players over the years have included Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Mike Singletary, Mike Ditka and Dick Butkus, have won only one Super Bowl, in the 1985-86 season. Peppers is expected to pay immediate dividends for the Bears, who were 7-9 last season with a defence that ranked 17th in the 32-team league.
Chicago also signed Chester Taylor, a running back and an eight-year NFL veteran who played the last four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, and Brandon Manumaleuna, a tight end who was a member of the San Diego Chargers in 2009. The acquisitions came on the opening day of the free agency signing period. The Baltimore Ravens strengthened their receiving corps by signing Anquan Boldin, the three-times Pro Bowl wide receiver, in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals. Baltimore gave their 2010 third and fourth-round draft picks to the Cardinals in exchange for Boldin and a 2010 fifth-round draft pick.
Boldin had 84 catches for 1,024 yards and four touchdowns last season while helping the Cardinals win the NFC West with a 10-6 record. Over his seven-year NFL career, spent entirely with the Cardinals, the 217-pound Boldin has 586 receptions for 7,520 yards and 44 touchdowns. "I really look at this as a great opportunity for me," said Boldin, the Cardinals' record-holder for receptions. "They love football in Baltimore. I know that from when the Cardinals played there a few years ago. That place was loud, very impressive by the fans. The Ravens play a certain way. They play as hard and as physical as any team in the league, and I want to add to that. I think I play the way they play."
The New York Giants have signed Antrel Rolle, the Pro Bowl safety. The deal was worth $37m over five years, with $15m guaranteed, and makes him the highest-paid safety to play in the NFL. "I'm ecstatic," Rolle said. "Words can't really express how I feel. I had five great years with the Cardinals organisation. But I felt it was time for a change. "The Giants are a first-class organisation all the way. There are great opportunities for me, and I am excited to be working with the players I'll be working with. I think the sky's going to be the limit as to what we can do."