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After missing Julius Peppers in 2017, Mike McCarthy seeks pass-rush improvement

After watching his oft-criticized defense struggle to generate a consistent pass rush last season, the Green Bay Packers’ head coach confessed last week at new cheap nfl jerseys the annual NFL meetings that his team definitely missed veteran pass-rusher Julius Peppers, who walked in free agency after the Packers’ front office decided to move on from him following three productive seasons.

The Packers chose not to re-sign Peppers or 2013 first-round pick Datone Jones last year, and while Jones had little impact in his four seasons in Green Bay, Peppers became one of McCarthy’s favorite players. Not only was he productive — he registered 29.5 sacks in his three seasons in Green Bay, including playoffs — but he was a steady veteran leader in a locker room that McCarthy admitted was not optimal last season after Aaron Rodgers’ broken right collarbone led to a 7-9 finish.

Multiple league sources said last spring that Peppers wanted to return but never got an offer from the Packers. He wound up taking a one-year deal from his original NFL team, the Carolina Panthers, that paid him a $1.65 million signing bonus and $1 million base salary. Peppers, who turned 38 in January and was happy to be back in Carolina, had 11 sacks for the Panthers in 2017 and re-upped for another year with the Panthers last month.

Without Peppers, veteran outside linebackers Clay Matthews (7.5) and Nick Perry (seven) led the Packers in sacks last season. The remaining outside linebackers on the roster — Kyler Fackrell (three), Ahmad Brooks (1.5), Reggie Gilbert (one), Vince Biegel (zero) and Chris Odom (zero) — had a combined 5.5 sacks.

Desperate for edge-rushing help late in training camp, the Packers signed Brooks to a one-year, $3.5 million deal that guaranteed him $2.75 million at signing — more than the Panthers paid Peppers.

“Oh, absolutely,” McCarthy replied during the NFL coaches breakfast when asked if the new nfl jerseys the Packers missed Peppers last season. “You look at Julius and Datone, that was 1,100 snaps of pass rush and we replaced it with Brooks and Odom. Just from an availability standpoint alone, that was a pretty significant void there.