Packers free agency: Peppers plans to return, Lang’s value determined

GREEN BAY, Wis. — NFL free agency begins on Thursday, but the Green Bay Packers won’t be able to keep all of their pending free agents.

That’s why it’s noteworthy Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson reported several NFL sources estimate right guard T.J. Lang‘s value to be at about $8 to $10 million per year. Spotrac listed Lang’s yearly value at $8.4 million. If that ends up being the range NFL teams would be willing to pay Lang, that leverage could be used against the Packers. Green Bay already pays right tackle Bryan Bulaga an average of $6.75 million per year, which ranks second in the league at his position.

Lang’s estimated value could create another problem for the Packers. Robinson noted Cincinnati Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler is expected to earn a new contract with an annual value of $10 to $12 million. Zietler was seen as a possible target for Green Bay in free agency should they have to part ways with Lang.

It was noted during Wednesday’s media session at the NFL Scouting Combine that coach Mike McCarthy expected linebacker Julius Peppers to return for another season. That now appears to be coming to fruition, after Peppers’ agent, Carl Carey, told ESPN that “he still has the desire and enthusiasm for the game, and his intention is to play a 16th NFL season.”

Peppers ranks fifth on the all-time career sacks list, logging 143.5 sacks in 15 regular seasons. Carey met with the Packers during the Combine on Peppers’ behalf. Peppers is a pending free agent after completing a three-year, $26 million contract with Green Bay.

The Packers are also in discussion with tight end Jared Cook about returning to Titletown, but as Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole reports, not much has been decided about Cook’s future. Cook signed a one-year, $2.75 million contract with Green Bay last offseason, and has a projected Spotrac market value of $3.4 million.

Report: Peppers “appears to be done” in Green Bay

GREEN BAY, Wis. — After three years in the green and gold, Packers beat writer Rob Demovsky writes that Julius Peppers’ time in Titletown “appears to be done.”

With free agency approaching on Mar. 9 and Peppers at 37 years of age, Green Bay is likely to cut ties with the nine-time Pro Bowler. In his 15th NFL season, Peppers logged 7.5 regular season sacks, along with 15 tackles, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

Outside linebacker Nick Perry’s emergence this season could play a role in the decision. Perry and Peppers combined for 18.5 sacks, compared to the team total of 40.

Peppers originally signed with the Packers prior to the 2014 season on a three-year, $26 million contract.

Matthews, Peppers cleared in PED investigation

The NFL’s investigation into Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers has concluded, and the pair have been cleared of any wrongdoing.

In a statement released early Wednesday afternoon, the NFL said they had found “no credible evidence” that the Green Bay Packers linebackers, along with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ James Harrison, had taken or been provided with banned substances as had been alleged in a documentary put together by Al-Jazeera America late last year.

The NFL said the investigation included interviews with witnesses, along with a review of “relevant records and other materials, electronic research and laboratory analysis and review.” The league called the investigation comprehensive.

Matthews and Peppers had both denied the accusations made in the documentary that stemmed from a hidden camera interview with Charlie Sly, a pharmacist from Indiana, who has since backtracked on his comments.

Former Packers linebacker Mike Neal is, according ESPN’s Adam Shefter, still under investigation for his connection to Sly.

Green Bay closes out their preseason schedule on Thursday night at Kansas City.

McCarthy: “We really like the opportunity in front of us.”

Mike McCarthy opened his 11th training camp as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers on Monday, and yet for him the excitement within the building and around the team was just as special as his first.

“This is exciting,” McCarthy said during a late morning press conference. “We’re talking about the National Football League here. The Green Bay Packers. This is a group – from coaching, support staff and most of all the players – we’re excited to get going. We really like the opportunity in front of us.”

The Packers enter camp among the favorites to make it to Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas. And for them to live up to those expectations, they’ll need quarterback Aaron Rodgers to bounce back from what was a subpar season by his standards. While most any team in the league would take a quarterback that threw 31 touchdowns and just eight interceptions with a passer rating of 93.1, those numbers won’t do for the two-time Most Valuable Player.

Rodgers talked this offseason about living a healthier lifestyle and eating better, which he was hoping would leave him in better shape to endure a grueling 16-game schedule injury free – something that hasn’t happened in any of the last three seasons.

“Aaron’s vibe, and really his offseason participation and performance, looks to line-up for a great year,” McCarthy said. “He’s in great shape. I would say this is the best shape I’ve seen him in.

“He’s excited to get started.”

So, too, is Jordy Nelson. The wide receiver missed the entire 2015 season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a preseason game last August. Despite his assurances that he would be ready to go in time for training camp, it’s unclear if that’ll be the case. McCarthy wouldn’t comment on what players would or wouldn’t be able to take the field for the first practice on Tuesday, saying only that he had yet to speak with the trainers.

Nelson’s return is critical for an offense that faltered last season without him, going from a top 10 group in the league in 2014 to being a unit rated No. 23 in total offense in 2015. McCarthy, though, says having Nelson right away isn’t necessarily a must.

“I think we’re all confident – Aaron and Jordy included – that they’re going to get it back,” McCarthy said of the tandem. “It’s just a matter of getting back out on the field and getting reps. You’re talking about two players that have thousands of reps invested in their time together. I have great confidence they’ll get that back.”

McCarthy also took a look in the mirror when it came to the offensive inefficiencies from a year ago. After calling the offensive plays for the first nine years of his time in Green Bay, McCarthy gave that duty to associate head coach Tom Clements last year. When the struggles happened, he took the play-calling duties back in December. That didn’t solve the issues, so McCarthy broke it down in the offseason.

“Like anything in life, when it doesn’t go the way you anticipate it should go, or it doesn’t hit the standard you’re accustomed to, you have to go back and take a hard look at it. And we definitely did that,” McCarthy said. “I know more times than not my natural reaction is to go back to the basics, and that’s really what we’ve done as an offensive staff, and I think our players echo that.”

PED Investigation

The Packers weren’t the only ones to report to training camp in Green Bay on Monday. So too did NFL investigators that are expected to meet with linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers over accusations stemming from an Al Jazeera article last December that claimed the duo had used performance enhancing drugs. Both players have denied the accusations, that also include former Packers’ defensive end Mike Neal and Pittsburgh Steelers’ outside linebacker James Harrison.

For his part, McCarthy said he hasn’t spoken with the duo recently but that he wasn’t concerned that the investigation could be a distraction or an issue moving forward.

“I have no reason to be concerned based on the conversations I’ve been a part of,” McCarthy said.