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Julius Peppers near the end of career with Packers

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Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson's rare foray into free agency couldn't be going any better.

Signed away from the division-rival Bears, outside linebacker Julius Peppers is garnering Pro Bowl consideration for a bounce-back season as the most effective pass rusher on an improved defense that has been dominant at Lambeau Field this season.

Peppers, 34, realizes he's in the twilight of his career, but he wants to return to Green Bay for another season in 2015.

"I'm near the end," Peppers acknowledged this week, via ESPN.com. "I'm somewhere near the end."

That might be true, but the former North Carolina basketball star remains one of the NFL's premier athletes, as evidenced by his two interceptions returned for touchdowns this season.

Peppers' three-year deal with the Packers calls for $9.5 million in salary and bonuses next season, putting his salary-cap figure at $12 million.

In effect, the Packers drew up the contract as a one-year deal, figuring to release Peppers or restructure his contract in 2015. At this stage of his career, it's even possible that Peppers would hang up his spikes if he earns his first Lombardi Trophy.

"Honestly, I'm taking this thing one day at a time," Peppers explained, "and at the end of the year we'll re-evaluate where I'm at where, where the team is at, which direction they're going, which direction I want to go. So as of right now, I'm having fun, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

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