With no Bennett brother reunion and Michael Johnson heading to Tampa Bay, the Chicago Bears quickly turned their attention to former Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston. The five-year deal Houston Inked yesterday is worth $35 million, with $15 million guaranteed, comparable with Bennett’s deal in Seattle and much less than Johnson’s in Tampa.
With a packed free agent market at defensive end, Bears GM Phil Emery did a great job cutting through the competition and scooping up one of the best on the market. Houston is a versatile end who can play inside and outside, stand up or in a three technique, and play on the left and right side of the line of scrimmage.
During the introductory press conference on Wednesday, Emery spoke about Lamarr being one of the best run defending ends in the league and that he is more of a disruption to the QB than his sack numbers might suggest. Houston touched on this when he took the microphone saying, “sack totals are important, mine haven’t been the highest… but I will prove to everybody why there is a reason I am here.”
When asked about the iconic franchise number 99 that Houston will wear, he replied with, “I know that it’s a number here that you have to earn the right to keep.” Slight shot at Shea McClellin? Probably not, but Bears fans wouldn’t mind that at all. Shea will switch over to number 50 with his move to linebacker, the number of another Bears hall of famer, Mike Singletary.
The signing of Houston ends Julius Peppers’ beloved stint in the Windy City. You can only rush the passer if you can stop the run, and Peppers was a liability all year. The release was something many saw coming, but I would not rule out Peppers returning if he tests the market and does not like any other situation. This has become a theme in the free agent controlled NFL. Teams signing players to ridiculously high contracts with a full knowledge said player will not play out the entire length of the deal. Back loading these deals so teams can get players cheaper early on, and as soon as cost out ways production, players are released and put back on the market. DeMarcus Ware found himself in the same position, before signing a 3-year deal with the Denver Broncos. Julius can still be a good player, but for the right price.
Emery was not done after signing Houston. Chicago agreed to terms with New York Giants safety Ryan Mundy on a 2-year deal. The 6-1, 215-pounder has appeared in 80 games with 14 starts over five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2009-12) and New York Giants (2013). Emery seems to be a huge fan of Mundy, saying he is impressed with his contributions on special teams and for taking advantage of playing time whenever he got a chance.
Being stuck behind two great safeties in Pittsburgh, the 5th year player mentioned, “I never changed my attitude, and I never changed my work ethic.” Mundy can play inside the box and over the top, showing some versatility that Bears coordinator Mel Tucker seems to like. Holding up the number twenty one jersey just made me happy that Major Wright is long gone.
Emery also went out and signed Green Bay Packers safety M.D. Jennings to a one year deal. Continuing the strategy to find bodies and get younger, especially in the secondary. Bears also retained linebacker D.J. Williams and signed linebacker Jordan Senn from Carolina. Near the end of the press conference Emery was asked about the depth of cornerbacks on the market, answering with, “the college draft has a lot more then the UFA class.” Hinting at taking a cornerback at #14 in the draft? I guess we will have to wait and see.