2014 NFL Free Agency: Bears ink DE Young and WR/KR Hixon on day three

2014 NFL Free Agency: Bears ink DE Young and WR/KR Hixon on day three

A day after signing a former Packer, the Bears added another player from an NFC North rival in Willie Young.

Young, a Lion his first four seasons in the NFL agreed to a three-year, $9 million deal with $3.5 million in guaranteed money. The defensive end will earn $900,000 in 2014 and receive a signing bonus of $2 million. The Bears also announced the signing of wide receiver Domenik Hixon.

The 28-year-old Young comes over from Detroit after appearing in 47 games, racking up 72 tackles, six sacks and two fumble recoveries since being selected in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

The North Carolina State product became a full-time starter in Detroit opposite rookie Ziggy Ansah after Cliff Avril left for Seattle last off-season. In 15 starts, Young set career-highs in tackles (47), sacks (3), pass deflections (5) and fumble recoveries (2).

The 6-foot-4, 251-pound pass rusher comes at a very good value. He ranked 15th among 4-3 defensive ends in 2013 with 60 quarterback pressures by Pro Football Focus.

Considering Young’s deal with the Bears it isn’t too pricey compared to what the Vikings just dished out to Everson Griffen.

Griffen re-upped with Minnesota on a five-year deal worth $42 million with $20 million in guarantees earlier this week. The 26-year-old had 5.5 sacks and 27 tackles in 2013.

Young is a very versatile end, who plays both at left and right end without missing a beat. He played on 713 defensive snaps and 78 special teams snaps this past season.

From 2011-12, Young averaged just under 330 defensive snaps per season. So, he is certainly a guy who should be looked at as a young 28-year-old.

“I’m happy to be in my new home now, with the snow and all,” Young said to the media at Halas Hall on Thursday. “I’m looking forward to a very aggressive defense here in the making.”

In six career games against the Bears, Young generated eight tackles and one sack. Bears fans likely remember young from last season’s Week Nine victory over the Lions, when he was called for roughing the passer for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Josh McCown.

Young’s signing not only adds depth to the defensive line, but it also takes pressure off selecting a defensive end in the first-round. Bears general manager calls Young “a quality starter.”

Now the Bears can turn their focus to a safety or defensive tackle with their No. 14 selection.

Special Teams Help

With Devin Hester officially gone, the Bears were sure to add an experienced return man in free agency. On day three, the Bears hammered out a deal with Domenik Hixon.

The 29-year-old Akron product comes to the Bears after spending eight seasons with the Broncos (2006-07), Giants (2007-12) and Panthers (2013). As a receiver he’s caught 109 passes for 1,460 yards and seven touchdowns.

As a returner, Hixon has averaged 24.6 yards with one TD on 80 kickoff returns and 10.7 yards with one TD on 56 punt returns.

In 2013, Hixon wasn’t used in the return game with Ted Ginn Jr. in town, but he caught seven balls on nine targets for 55 yards and one touchdown on offense. His 14-yard touchdown reception in Week 16 propelled the Panthers into the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

“We’re certainly going to give him an opportunity to return some kicks in practice and see what it looks like in preseason,” Emery said. “”We’re bringing him in to compete, to find a spot on our roster.”

Hixon’s signing almost certainly spells the end for Eric Weems, whose spent the past two seasons in Chicago as a special teams contributor. Weems is owed $1 million in 2014 and his cap hit is $1.6 million.

Hixon and Young join defensive end Lamarr Houston, safeties Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings and special teams ace Jordan Senn as the six free-agent pickups made by the Bears so far. Linebacker D.J. Williams also re-signed with the Bears on the first day of free agency.


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