The Bears made a splash as free agency opened up on Tuesday afternoon. After missing out on pass-rushers Michael Bennett and Michael Johnson, the Bears reeled in a very solid defensive end in Lamarr Houston.
According to sources, Houston’s deal is a five-year, $35 million deal with $12.9 million in guaranteed money. The first three years of Houston’s contract will pay him $21 million. He will earn $9 million in first season and $6 million in 2015.
“I’m honored to be joining an organization that has such rich football history,” Houston said via ChicagoBears.com. “Being in an organization that embraces that, I think it’s a good fit for me.”
In four seasons with the Oakland Raiders, the 2010 second-round selection appeared in 64 games, starting 59, while racking up 16 sacks, 228 tackles, one interception and four forced fumbles.
The 6-foot-3, 300 lb defensive lineman has the ability to play both defensive end and defensive tackle. The versatile pass-rusher generated a career-high six sacks in 2013 playing exclusively at right defensive end. He also had 27 quarterback pressures.
Prior to 2013, Houston, a Texas product played on the left side and moved inside often. In the last three seasons, Lamarr Houston has 98 run stops. No other edge defender in the NFL had more than 76, according to Pro Football Focus.
His 16 quarterback hits in 2013 ranked him eighth among defensive ends playing in a 4-3 scheme. That number tied him with Johnson and was only one short of Bennett’s total.
Houston comes to the Bears at a solid value after Everson Griffen (five-years, $42 million), Bennett (four-years, $28.5 million) and Johnson (five-years, $43.75 million), who signed deals the past two days on the open market. Griffen has one career start, while Bennett and Johnson have started 76 games combined over five seasons.
The signing improves the Bears defense, who ranked at the very bottom of the league in almost every category in 2013. The rival Packers reportedly were interested in signing Houston as well.
Houston enters his fifth NFL season and will turn 27 in June. He played at a high level each week on a very mediocre Raiders defensive front. His best games last season came against San Diego in Week Four and against Denver in Week 17, where he posted seven tackles and one sack in both home outings.
The signing makes too much sense for the Bears. With the move of Shea McClellin to linebacker, the possible release of 34-year-old Julius Peppers looming and the future of free-agent Corey Wootton up in the air, no real starter was on the current roster.
Even though Houston isn’t your typical defensive end, he should excel for the Bears. If Henry Melton is re-signed, the Bears defensive front could feature both Houston and Melton along with Ratliff, who made everyone better in five games last season. That would be pretty impressive.
“He [Houston] breaks down well, plays with good knee bend, and is resilient,” SI said about Houston prior to the 2010 NFL Draft. “Effectively collapses to the outside defending the run, keeps his feet driving on contact, and works his hands well. Fires off the snap with a terrific first step and displays a lot of explosion in his game.”
The problem with Melton at this moment is his asking price that is not currently known. Melton is coming off a major injury and a recent arrest, so the Bears might opt to draft a defensive tackle in the first-round. That wouldn’t be a bad move with so much talent in this year’s draft at that position.
A guy supposedly on the Bears radar, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, signed a four-year, $16 million deal with the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday.
More news to come out of Halas Hall on the first day of the NFL free agency period.
What are your thoughts on the Bears big free-agent splash? Do you like Houston or do you think they paid too much?
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