The Chicago Bears have made it clear that they are sold on strengthening their biggest weakness of the 2013 season, their defense. On the third day of free agency, the Bears signed former Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young. This is the second defensive end that Chicago has signed thus far in free agency, and sixth defensive player.
Young spent the first four years of his career with the division-rival Lions, and saw rare playing time up until 2013, when he started 15 regular-season games. The 6-foot-4, 251 pounder is a lean speed rusher who can wreak havoc on the edge. The three-year, $9 million contract offered to Young shows that the Bears are high on Young’s ability, and chances of being a starter in 2014.
With the addition of Young, defensive end Lamarr Houston, and the re-signings of defensive tackles Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins, Chicago’s defensive front will have an entirely new look next season.
The possibility of re-signing unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Henry Melton is dwindling every day. In fact, it has been rumored that Melton will join the Minnesota Vikings before the week is over. Re-signing Melton probably wasn’t in the Bears’ plans to begin with, considering that the fifth-year veteran had an off-the-field altercation in December, which he’s being sued for right now.
In addition to the likelihood of Melton not returning to the Windy City, the same could be said for defensive end Corey Wootton. I felt that Wootton would have been high on Chicago’s priority list this offseason. However, his hip injury might be what led to the two signings of defensive ends over the past three days. Of course, the chance of Wootton returning is much greater than Melton’s, pending on what other teams offer him.
How it pans out right now, Houston and Young are the starting defensive ends, while Ratliff, Collins or Stephen Paea could be either of the two starting defensive tackles. Keep in mind that this doesn’t even include the fact that the Bears could use their 14th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on a defensive lineman who could crack the starting lineup as well.
Regardless of how the chips may fall, Chicago has made some very bold moves defensively, and as a result, will have a much improved and younger defense, especially along the defensive front.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller.