The Bears defense played without a pulse last year. After pairing a 31-year-old veteran pass-rusher with three other defensive-line free-agent acquisitions this offseason, the front office may have shocked the squad back to life.
Former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen agreed to a four-year, $32 million deal with Chicago, adding a veteran presence to a defensive line that was seeing a youth overhaul and may continue the trend in the 2014 NFL Draft. Allen's contract included $15.5 million in guaranteed money, which made the edge-rusher the most expensive per-year earner on the defensive side of the ball.
Allen's addition will fill the void created by Julius Peppers' departure to the rival Packers. Allen has 128.5 career sacks, including 11.5 during the 2013 campaign. His best season came in 2011 when he finished with 22 sacks, only a half-sack away from tying Michael Strahan's all-time record. Peppers, although he was severely limited by the lack of help in last year's defense, finished with seven sacks. The new Cheesehead has 118.5 for his career.
Allen will join three other defensive-line additions this offseason, including Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Israel Idonije. However, the Bears still lack depth in the interior of the line, so the possibility of drafting a young tackle is still high.
Allen reportedly claimed he was ready to retire if he didn't receive the money he was seeking. Luckily for both sides, he struck gold in Chicago. Other than his on-field talents, Allen also adds personality, attitude and experience to the locker room, traits that will be crucial as the young defensive tandem grows together.
"We're really excited about adding Jared to our football team," head coach Marc Trestman told ChicagoBears.com. "We know what his abilities bring to the table. Jared is certainly a very experienced player in the league. We believe he's going to come in hungry and excited to be part of our football team, and we believe he'll fit right in with the other new players that we've added and the guys that are already on the defensive side of the ball. I know that our defensive coaches are excited as well."
The addition of a veteran who is headed toward the dreaded mid-30s age range reflects how much Chicago management wanted to put a playoff-contending team on the field. The Bears' record-breaking offense will now have a formidable defense to keep from having to win shootouts.
Can the season start tomorrow? Please?