2015 NFL Free Agency: Bears Add Versatile Defender In Pernell McPhee

2015 NFL Free Agency: Bears Add Versatile Defender In Pernell McPhee
Linebacker Pernell McPhee #90 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after sacking quarterback Connor Shaw #9 of the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium on December 28, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Browns 20-10. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

Despite only starting six games in his four-year NFL career, linebacker Pernell McPhee just earned himself a big payday from the Bears.

According to a report from the Baltimore Sun, the Bears have an agreement in place with the 26-year-old outside linebacker on a five-year, $40 million deal with nearly $16 million in guaranteed money.

All deals will become official on Tuesday at 3 p.m. CT when free agency officially opens up. The Bears were allowed to negotiate with McPhee because of the three-day window to negotiate with players from other teams whose contracts expire Tuesday.

The Ravens are expected to receive a third or fourth-round compensatory pick in return for the 2016 draft, according to ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley.

With his rookie contract expiring, the Ravens couldn’t afford to keep the 2011 fifth-round pick out of Mississippi State. Baltimore has let three young defenders walk in free agency over the past three years including defensive end Arthur Jones and linebackers Paul Kruger and Daniel Ellerbe.

McPhee is coming off a 2014 season where he recorded a career-high 7.5 sacks. Despite not starting a single game in 2014, his success as a pass-rusher made him a valuable commodity on the market this off-season.

The 6-foot-3, 280-pounder took the field for 515 defensive snaps and 182 special teams snaps. His highest snap count (44) came in Week Four against Carolina.

McPhee had 9.5 sacks combined in his previous three seasons with Baltimore. He has the exact versatility that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio loves to see. McPhee has played defensive end, nose tackle and outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme.

His six starts all came in 2012, when Terrell Suggs was out with an Achilles tear. However, the Bears view McPhee as an outside linebacker who can line up all over the field. So expect to see him settle into a bigger role in Chicago.

McPhee ranked as the second best 3-4 outside linebacker by Pro Football Focus last season behind only Kansas City’s Justin Houston. He added a career-best 64 quarterback pressures and 24 quarterback hits.

McPhee joins Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young as the Bears outside linebackers. Head coach John Fox plans to move the three veterans Houston, Allen and Young to fit Fangio’s scheme.

Houston is the only one of the three who has experience in the 3-4, but Allen and Young seem to fit the bill with their athleticism. Shea McClellin, who will be a free agent at the end of 2015 could be an option  inside or on the outside as a pass-rush specialist.

General manager Ryan Pace is off to good start in the effort to make this defense an intimidating force once again. McPhee is the first of many new faces who will be brought onto to reshape this Bears’ defense.

Three other free-agent options for the Bears to consider are defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, safety Antrel Rolle and center Stefen Wisniewski.

ESPN Chicago reports the Bears have serious interest in Knighton, who started every game over the last two seasons for Fox and his defense in Denver. Rolle is also considered a target by ESPN Chicago’s Michael C. Wright.

Wisniewski won’t be back in Oakland after they agreed to terms with Rodney Hudson. However, a deal with him could be out of the Bears’ price range, but at the same token it would be wise to have a young talent to replace Roberto Garza sooner or later.

What are your thoughts on the Bears’ signing of McPhee? What would you like to see them do next in free agency?


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