Despite missing out on free-agent defensive ends Michael Bennett and Michael Johnson, the Bears have reportedly agreed to a deal with another up-and-coming pass-rusher.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the Bears agreed to sign former Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston to a five-year, $35 million deal with $15 million guaranteed.
The scheme-versatile lineman played defensive end in Oakland's 4-3 defense. However, Houston has the athleticism to stand up and make plays as a linebacker or slide to the interior line and utilize his 6-foot-3, 300-pound frame to stop the run.
Houston accumulated six sacks, forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass in 2013. He has 228 tackles, 16 sacks, four forced fumbles, sick fumbles recovered and the lone interception since being drafted by Oakland in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
The move will likely fill a future void created by dumping Julius Peppers' contract via trade or release. Houston will turn 27 in June while Peppers appears to be spiraling toward the end of his career as an elite pass-rusher. According to Pro Football Focus, Houston had 41 quarterback hurries, ninth best for 4-3 ends, and 16 quarterback hits, eighth best. Peppers accumulated 27 hurries and six hits.
However, Houston is slower than most elite edge-rushers in the NFL. His behemoth size may keep his sack count low in a 4-3, but his decision-making skills and large frame will help clog holes for the run defense. The Bears allowed 161.4 yards on the ground to opposing offenses per game, the worst in the league.
Signing Houston will be the first of many moves necessary to repair Chicago's historically bad defense. Even though they now have Houston, a piece of the puzzle locked up entering his prime, the Bears still have more questions than answers on that side of the ball.