NFL Network’s Ian Rappaport reports that the Bears are now targeting DE Lamarr Houston. That’s more like it. If losing out on Michael Bennett means the Bears sign Houston as a consolation prize, then I’ll be a happy man. Houston has been my preferred target from the beginning of free agency and nothing has changed. It’s my opinion that he is on the cusp of a breakout year. I know he only had 6 sacks last year, but he came awfully close to quite a few more. Houston was Pro Football Focus’ 11th ranked DE in 2013 and had 41 QB hurries and 16 QB hits. If you combine those for a stat I like to call QBH (QB hits+hurries) that total was the 6th best in the league among DEs. I look at QBH kind of like doubles in baseball. Often times a high doubles total leads to an increase in homers the next year. Hitters get a little stronger and some of those near misses clear the fence the next season. In football hurries and hits are near misses and if Houston gets a little stronger, quicker, or improves his rush technique some of those hits & hurries could be sacks next year. Even if he ends up with a similar sack total as 2013, he’s still one of the best DEs in the NFL against the run. He led all DEs with 63 tackles last year.
I would have been happy with the Bears signing Michael Bennett and think he could have produced the 8-10 sacks that he has the last two seasons. I think that is Bennett’s ceiling. Houston on the other hand is a year and a half younger and is just coming into his prime as a defensive end. He’s gotten better every season he’s been in the league and I think he has more room to improve. Hopefully the Bears can surround him with a few other players that can get to the QB so he isn’t the focus of opposing offensive lines like he was in Oakland. I might be getting ahead of myself, it is just a rumor after all, and the Packers are said to be after Houston as well. If they were willing to give a mediocre corner like Sam Shields almost $10M per then how much would they be willing to pay for a guy with legit pro bowl potential? After being let down about Bennett resigning with the Seahawks I needed something to get my hopes up and the rumor that the Bears are targeting Houston did the trick.