Nov 23, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown (12) fumbles the ball after being sacked by Chicago Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea (92) in the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Bears offseason is starting to heat up as we head toward the start of the new league year and Free Agency. As a part of our Chicago Bears Roster Review, we’re leading off by looking at Bears Free Agents. New GM Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox have some tough decisions to make as they reshape the Bears roster in hopes of a bounce back 2015 season.
Stephen Paea, DT, 26
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In a season that left Bears fans discouraged and players uninspired, Stephen Paea’s 2014 performance was one of the few that fulfilled expectations. After recording just six sacks in his first three seasons, the 2011 second round pick doubled his career total in 2014, finishing with six sacks on the year. He showed quality size and speed on the defensive line as he was actually able to pressure the quarterback consistently on a defense that finished the season with just 39.0 sacks. The breakout defensive tackle also posted career highs in games played (16), total tackles (33), and forced fumbles (2). While I wouldn’t go so far as to call Paea a star, he certainly proved to be a serviceable defender for Chicago in 2014. On a defense that lacks talent top-to-bottom, the Bears must make resigning Paea a top priority this offseason.
Letting Paea go would be a complete mistake for the Bears. Not only did he prove to be a solid starter for Chicago last season, but more importantly the team really doesn’t have any options to replace him. Other than Jay Ratliff (33 years old), Ego Ferguson was the only defensive tackle on the Bears that recorded a sack in 2014, and he finished the season with just two. Even if defensive tackles Feguson and Will Sutton (both 2013 Day Two draft picks) showed enough promise in 2014 to leave the coaching staff optimistic about their future (I personally was unimpressed), neither one is ready to lead the Bears’ defensive tackle unit. Unless the Bears plan to replace him in feee agency (Ndamukong Suh), the front office must prioritize resigning Paea in the offseason.