I asked coach Marc Trestman on Thursday if the veteran pass rusher has played his final down in the Windy City.
"Julius Peppers is under contract and he's been very important to our football team," Trestman said. "I don't think anything more needs to be said."
Maybe not in public, but the Bears have to be mulling the possibility of releasing the 34-year-old defender on the heels of a campaign that saw him pile up just 7.5 sacks for a defense that finished 2013 as a comprehensive train wreck.
What Trestman did tell reporters was that Chicago is going to make May's NFL Draft a "defense-oriented" operation that angles to add bodies to a unit that finished last in sacks and 30th in points allowed.
If the team does part ways with Peppers, the need for help at defensive end will be urgent with Trestman confirming Thursday that Shea McClellin will move to linebacker next season. Chalk that up as just one of the many changes coming for a Bears defense bound to look drastically different in 2014.