I've said it before in my "offseason review" and I'll say it again here; When Phil Emery wants to eat, he eats! Last off-season it was the offensive line, this off-season it was the defensive line.
Rightfully so in doing it. Considering the lack of depth, impact and production the defensive line had last season as whole. Especially from week seven on when the unit allowed upwards of 200 yards a week on the ground alone. Plus the liability in the pass rush the team had become with it's leading sack man at, seven in Julius Peppers who at times seemed to be at the very least, disinterested.
Thus, leading to the complete overhaul of the entire defensive line. No more are former line stalwarts, Henry Melton and Julius Peppers.
Leading off free-agency the Bears signed versatile defensive end, LaMarr Houston to a five year contract worth up to $35,000,000 with $14,900,000 in guarantees. He is also has the ability to line up inside at the 3-technique defensive tackle and at rush linebacker. Following that move the Bears signed long, athletic former Lions defensive end, Willie Young to a three year contract worth $9,000,000 and $3,950,000 in guarantees. Though he only totaled three sacks this passed season, he lead the Lions with 60 quarterback pressures. The tough part with Young will be getting him to turn more of those pressure into the finished products of sacks. The latter part of the statement I have faith he will accomplish.
Finally, came the massive and unforeseen addition of former Vikings' stud pass-rusher, Jared Allen. Normally a terror to the NFC North and more specifically to Jay Cutler's blindside. He will now be donning the navy and orange. When he signed on the dotted line for, four seasons (though it's more like a two year deal with two option years following) for $32,000,000 he received $15,500,000 guaranteed.
The big, fun, hillbilly from Wyoming will provide a veteran presence, edge and production (hopefully) that was sorely missed on the line the past season. The one concern when it comes to Allen at this point in his career is how much does he really have left? He's played nearly all the defensive snaps in his NFL career that may very well land him in Canton at some point in time. Though, he should have enough for a good two-three season run, similar to when Peppers initially arrived in the Windy City.
The draft also saw two big time college lineman brought in. In the form of LSU's Ego Ferguson (2nd Round) and Will Sutton (3rd Round). Both of whom will learn behind retained Jay Ratliff and fourth year man from Oregon St, Stephen Paea.
Ferguson is more a physical specimen than Sutton, standing 6'3" and 305 lbs figures to be slotted more of the shade nose position or the 1 technique where he can use his size, strength and athleticism to push the pile back while landing the occasional sack. Though he is the much more raw of the two prospects. Sutton, however was Aaron Donald before Aaron Donald in 2012.
Sutton figures to be more of the classic 3-technique under-tackle in the 4-3 formation. Used primarily as a interior pass rushing. Sutton tallied 63 total tackles (23.5 of which for a loss) and 14 sacks as a junior at ASU. His senior season saw him balloon to right around 330 lbs thanks to bad eating habits and poor advice from within. Seeing his sack total fall to four and though he still registered 48 tackles, 13.5 of which were for a loss. He's now back to his junior year playing weight of around 290 lbs and should show the same explosion that lead to him being the feared interior pass rusher he was.
The Bears will be looking to carry around 10 players on the defensive line. Whether it be five defensive ends and five tackles. Six ends and four tackles or vice versa. The only known is that seven spots will be filled with the likes of Allen, Houston, Young, Ferguson, Sutton, Ratliff and Paea all on the roster (Three Ends and Four Tackles).
Leaving a grand total of three open roster spots left on the defensive line. The competition for the final spots will be between tackles; Nate Collins, Tracy Robertson, Lee Pegues and Brandon Dunn. The ends competing are Trevor Scott, Austen Lane, Cornelius Washington and David Bass.
From that group I believe Collins is a bit of shoe-in to make the roster given his performance prior to his injury last season and experience in the defense. I see the final two spots on the line going to Trevor Scott and David Bass. Leaving the final count at five defensive tackles and five defensive ends and the depth chart looking like:
LDE: LaMarr Houston/Willie Young/David Bass
UT: Jeremiah Ratliff/Will Sutton/Nate Collins
NT: Stephen Paea/Ego Ferguson
RDE: Jared Allen/Trevor Scott
Which leaves the likes of Cornelius Washington and Austen Lane off the roster.