The future of the Bears' defensive line was cloudy at best entering the 2014 NFL free-agency period. Following reports of Julius Peppers being shopped and Michael Bennett agreeing to stay in Seattle, the state of the defensive line is anyone's guess now.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Bears are shopping defensive end Peppers for a trade. If not restructured, Peppers' contract is set to rake in $13.9 million in 2014 and $16.5 million in 2015 However, the trade talks appear to be a desperation move before the inevitable cut Tuesday.
Peppers, 34, had only 7.5 sacks in 2013, the third-lowest total in his career. He also forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass. However, the four-year Bear will likely be packing his bags and joining Devin Hester in a taxi ride out of Chicago by the day's end, a move that would save almost $10 million in cap space or $14 million over two years.
Peppers' absence will create another void on defense. Chicago obviously need help on the defensive line and pretty much every position on that side of the ball not filled by Tim Jennings. How much help? Chicago's 31 total sacks last year is tied with the Jaguars for the fewest in the league.
Yes, they need instant improvements.
A suitable replacement would be former Seahawks pass-rusher Michael Bennett, brother of Bears tight end Martellus Bennett. However, ESPN league sources confirmed that the underpaid Seahawks edge-rusher will finally get the payday he deserves.
"League sources confirmed to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that Bennett signed a four-year, $28.5 million deal, with $16 million guaranteed," per ESPN.com. "Bennett will make $10 million in the first year, $6 million in the second year, $5 million in the third year and $7.5 million in the final year."
Reports indicated the Bears were one of two teams to offer Bennett more money than Seattle.
With Bennett polishing his Super Bowl ring in Seattle for four more years, the Bears appear to be locked on to a different target: former Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston.
Although he is Plan B, Houston is a force on the line. The five-year lineman accumulated six sacks, forced four fumbles, recovered six fumbles and intercepted a pass last year in the AFC West, a division filled with explosive offenses like the Bears' NFC North. Speaking of the North, the Packers are also interested in acquiring the 26-year-old pass-rusher.
The free-agency period begins later today. Will Phil Emery and his team of suits in the front office overpay for big names or will they make a few minor moves and put all their stock in the talent-richdraft? Like I mentioned above, it's anyone's guess now.