After strong free agency, what’s next for Chicago Bears?

Despite having signed only one offensive player (WR Domenik Hixon) out of the ten incoming free agents thus far, don’t expect the defensive focus to change much for the Chicago Bears as the 2014 NFL Draft approaches.

Following a record-setting season with an offense unlike any the franchise has ever seen, finishing second in the NFL in total points and breaking the team record for yards gained, the Chicago Bears have looked to retool a defense that greatly disappointed in 2013.

Two weeks after releasing one of the biggest defensive free agent signings in team history, Julius Peppers, the Chicago Bears found his replacement on Wednesday, signing DE Jared Allen to a four-year deal. With new additions DE Lamarr Houston, DE Willie Young, and now Allen, it is clear finishing again with just 31.0 sacks, tied for last in the NFL, is not an option for second year Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker.

Julius Peppers and Jared Allen

Julius Peppers sharing laughs at the 2013 Pro Bowl with his future replacement Jared Allen.

Though the 31-year-old Jared Allen may not seem like much of an improvement over Julius Peppers, age 34, Allen’s seven straight seasons of double digit sacks give the Bears some much needed dependability, something Julius unfortunately could never provide.

After putting so much money and attention into the complete overhaul of the defense, you may think the Bears are in a great shape heading into the draft, able to pick the best player available at number 14. However, their decisions will continue to be based on team and positional needs as the holes continue to be plugged in what was a very leaky defense in 2013.

Team records were set for the most yards, rushing yards, and points allowed over the course of a season, equating to nearly 30 points per game. Nothing worked as the Monsters of the Midway failed to stop the run, pressure the quarterback, and defend the deep ball. For a franchise built by legendary linebackers, the defense simply was not up to standard.

So while it may seem that adding a myriad of defensive linemen, linebackers, and safeties is enough for this once great defense, it is doubtful GM Phil Emery will see it that way. In fact, the Bears had one of the oldest defenses in the NFL last season, with the average age of 27.7, making the draft a necessary tool to help rebuild.

With only 13 picks before the Bears, the team should be in good position to select a top player on their Big Board, that being one that fits a defensive need. The team’s biggest weaknesses last season were poor safety play and an inability to stop the run; however, Henry Melton’s departure through free agency leaves the team’s biggest hole at defensive tackle. Though three high profile defensive ends were signed just last month, don’t be surprised if the team selects a defensive tackle in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, for consistency and strong play from all four positions of the defensive line is essential for a great defense.

Whoever the Bears pick is at number 14 you can be sure he will be a defender who hopefully will be able to step in immediately and contribute for this is a team that appears intent on contending for the Super Bowl in 2014.