With so many holes on defense it doesn’t make much sense for the Bears to spend all of their cap room on one big-name free agent like Greg Hardy or Michael Johnson. I would prefer 3-4 good players over 1 great one. Pass rushers are expensive, so the first couple guys on this list might end up priced out of the Bears range. If the Bears decide to release Julius Peppers due to his cap number ($18M), then a guy like Hardy or Johnson becomes a more realistic option.
Michael Bennett SEA (28): The Bears missed their chance on Bennett last year when all he could find on the market was a 1-yr deal for $4.5M. Some considered his 2012 breakout season (9 sacks) a fluke, but Bennett was even better in 2013 with 9 sacks, 39 QB hurries, and a 24.2 grade for the season which was the 5th best in the league for DEs. In comparison, the Bears highest graded DE was Julius Peppers at -4.4. Ugh. Bennett will be looking for a multi-year deal and a raise from the $4.5M he made last year.
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Lamarr Houston OAK (26): Only had 6 sacks in 2013, but led all DEs in tackles (63) and finished in the top ten in both QB hurries and QB hits which are usually precursors to big sack totals. It’s like in baseball when a hitter has a ton of doubles, you tend to see an increase in homers the next year. Houston’s lack of elite sack totals might lower his price enough for the Bears to afford him.
Willie Young DET (28): I can’t stand watching this guy play for the Lions. Young is the typical Lions d-lineman: always talking trash, over celebrating routine plays and getting dumb penalties. That being said, he’s pretty good. Young only had 4 sacks, but was 3rd in the NFL last year with 48 QB hurries. The Lions have a ton of money tied up in their DL already, so I would be surprised if they have enough cap space to bring back Young.
Everson Griffen MIN (26): Solid all-around DE. Good at everything, but not great. If the price is right, Griffen would be an upgrade at DE, but his lack of one defining skill should keep the Bears from over-spending.
(3-4) Arthur Jones BAL (27): If the Bears move to a 3-4, they need to add at least one DE to the roster. Most of their current DEs are too small for the 3-4 DE position. Adding Jones would be a good start for the Bears. He finished as Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) 12th ranked 3-4 DE and had an excellent year defending the run while still adding 5 sacks. Jones will have at least a few 3-4 teams vying for his services, so he won’t be cheap. On a side note, Jones is the older brother of UFC fighter Jon “Bones” Jones and Pats DE Chandler Jones. I bet their sister has trouble getting dates.