It has been a rough week or so for the Green Bay Packers when it comes to free agency. Much of that has been on the defensive side of the ball. Outside linebackers Julius Peppers and Datone Jones have left for the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings, respectively. Versatile safety Micah Hyde shuffled off to Buffalo. But in light of all of those departures, the team managed to retain its leading sack artist of this past season.

Overdue breakout season

You will recall that back in 2012, the Green Bay Packers made USC defender Nick Perry the 28th overall pick in the draft.

He was thought by some to be the best pass rusher available in the class but he never seemed to get on track due in part to injuries. He missed a total of 18 games in his first four seasons and totaled only 12.5 sacks. When it came time for the team to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, general manager Ted Thompson opted not to go in that direction. Instead (via Spotrac), the Pack inked Perry to a one-1 year, $5.05 million deal. He responded with a team-best 11 sacks, easily his career high. Earlier this month, he was rewarded with a five-year $59 million contract.

How about an encore?

Truth be told, 11 sacks is a solid showing for any player. It’s worth noting that Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley led the NFL with 15.5 quarterback traps this past season.

So it’s not unreasonable for some to expect Perry to equal or even top his career showing. More importantly, he may have to put up big numbers for the Green Bay Packers to entertain thoughts of a ninth straight playoff appearance. Keep in mind that this was a defensive unit that dropped opposing passers 40 times and still managed 32 touchdown passes.

Injuries at the cornerback position played a big part when it came to those aerial scores. But Capers’ unit needs more heat and more takeaways for this defense to be truly effective. Given Perry’s brief history, it will take some doing for him to match his performance of 2016. Then again, perhaps the five-year veteran has finally turned the corner when it comes to his career.