Peppers delivered goods as free-agent signing last year

Free agency is fast approaching, and teams will hope to get their man on the open market. So with that being said, which free-agent signing from 2010 was the biggest success?

  • Steve Wyche
  • One Bear, one Packer

It's hard to argue with Julius Peppers, who signed for big money in Chicago and made his presence felt through the playoffs. The Pro Bowl defensive end was solid against the run, delivered eight sacks, three forced fumbles, two interceptions, and 54 tackles. He also solidified a defense that helped carry an inconsistent offense to the NFC championship game.

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  </table> A wrinkle here: I'm going to add [Packers](/teams/greenbaypackers/profile?team=GB) cornerback [Sam Shields](/player/samshields/1037374/profile), who was undrafted out of Miami. The rookie free agent earned his way into the starting nickel back job, then improved rapidly as the season went along. He came up with a huge interception in the NFC championship game against the [Bears](/teams/chicagobears/profile?team=CHI), and stepped in and played well in the [Super Bowl]( (with a shoulder injury) after starter Charles Woodson was lost for the game.
  • Pat Kirwan
  • Peppers sets up Chicago's defense

The biggest free agent success story in 2010 was the Bears signing of Julius Peppers. The Bears bounced back and won their division, and when you realize how Peppers' presence on the field sets up everyone else on the defense he became a critical piece, much like Reggie White did when he joined the Packers in the 1990s.

  • Elliot Harrison
  • Peppers commands attention

Although I don't think he belonged in the top 10 of "The Top 100: Players of 2011", you can certainly make a case for the Julius Peppers signing being a huge success -- perhaps the biggest free agent success story.

Chicago only allowed 17.9 points per game, largely due to Peppers' presence. The club made it to the NFC championship game, so obviously the season overall was a successful one. While Peppers sometimes gets a hair too much credit, there is no question that the Bears' defensive line was a helluva lot better in 2010 than 2009. Chicago hasn't had a guy at defensive end who commanded the attention Peppers routinely does since Richard Dent departed for San Francisco in 1994.

  • Dave Dameshek
  • Clifton helped Packers when it mattered most

Julius Peppers is the obvious choice ... for the regular season. If we're talking playoffs, though, I'll take the guy largely responsible for shutting Peppers down in the NFC title game: Packers left tackle Chad Clifton.

Clifton had a few moments where he looked over the hill in 2010, but with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, he completely dominated Peppers -- minus a violent fourth-quarter late hit on Aaron Rodgers.

Then, in the Super Bowl, Rodgers was given the time to play like a man on fire -- and thanks to Clifton, it was a fire James Harrison couldn't put out, even if he'd wanted to.

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