The Chicago Bears top priority left in free agency is at edge and there is still a big fish available.
The dust is settling in NFL free agency. HaHa Clinton-Dix and Buster Skrine are in. Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan are out. The Chicago Bears have also made some other moves with running back Mike Davis and offensive lineman Ted Larsen.
But one position the Bears have yet to address is their edge position. Of course the Bears have Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd, but what they don’t have is a reliable third edge that can rotate in and rush the passer.
Last year, that player was Aaron Lynch. Lynch is still a free agent and the Bears could re-sign him, but if the Bears want to try to squeeze out a low-level comp pick, they could let Lynch sign elsewhere and sign a player that was released by his former team. That player wouldn’t count against the comp pick formula.
Oddly enough, the biggest name left on the edge market is one that doesn’t count against the pick formula, his name is Justin Houston.
Houston is an aging pass rusher that the Kansas City Chiefs tried to trade, but they were unable to and decided to release him. Houston had a hefty price tag that teams did not want to get saddled with, but that doesn’t mean Houston isn’t an appealing option.
Houston is 30 years old, but he does have 18.5 sacks over 27 games over the last two seasons. He can still get to the quarterback and wreak havoc.
The question at this point is just what does Justin Houston want? Does Houston want to get every dollar this year and sign wherever? Does he want to take a cut in snaps and keep his body fresher now that he’s in his 30s? Does he want a multiyear deal or a one year deal and get back onto the market next season?
All those questions are fair, and no one can answer them except Justin Houston.
If Houston isn’t getting the offers he wants, and based on the silence around his name in free agency, odds are he isn’t, perhaps Houston may want a short-term contract where he can shine and prove his value and hit the market again in 2020.
Clinton-Dix wanted to do that and signed a very affordable deal with the Bears. Would Houston see the same opportunity and would the Bears see it as a fit?
The Bears have about $16 million in cap space left. They need to put a couple million aside for their rookies that will be coming aboard and some wiggle room for operational expenses throughout the year. So consider that total left closer to $14 million.
If Houston is willing to sign a one-year, $10 million contract, the Bears could have themselves a lethal third edge to rotate in, cut down on the snap count load on Leonard Floyd, give Chuck Pagano an opportunity to have some lethal pass rush personnel groupings and just generally terrorize the NFC.
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That would still leave the Bears enough money to fill out the rest of the roster with low-level veterans. They could still extend Chase Daniel’s contract and free up a couple more million if need be as well.
Once Houston is off the market, the edge market will take a significant hit. There will be a couple of names left like Shane Ray or Bruce Irvin, but none of them will have the same type of on-the-field impact that Houston will bring to his next team.
Right now, the Bears only have Isaiah Irving and Kyle Fitts on the edge as reserves. Irving is a fine fourth edge and unless Fitts doesn’t show significant improvement in training camp, you have to wonder if Fitts will even be on the roster this year.
The Bears need a third edge. It has to be their top priority at this point. Justin Houston is available. Can Ryan Pace make it work? If he does, this would be the type of move that proves the Bears are truly all-in on winning a Super Bowl this season.