In just one offseason, Marc Trestman rebuilt the Chicago Bears into the second highest scoring offense in the league behind the record setting Denver Broncos. Trestman’s quick turnaround of the Bears’ offense gives Chicago hope that he can do the same for its struggling defense. Head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery’s first order of business was to determine if defensive coordinator Mel Tucker would return to the Bears for his second season. Now, it’s a matter of signing the right players for Tucker’s 4-3 defensive schemes.
On the first day of 2014 free agency, the Bears signed five defensive players. They agreed to terms with defensive end Lamarr Houston, safeties M.D. Jennings and Ryan Mundy, and linebackers D.J. Williams and Jordan Senn. The Bears also terminated defensive end Julius Peppers’ contract to free up cap space. With the release of Peppers, the Bears save $13.9 million in cash and $9.8 million in cap space.
Lamarr Houston, considered to be one of the top 2014 pass rushers available, agreed to a five-year, $35 million contract with the Bears. This particular acquisition gives Bears fans hope that Houston will fill the gap Peppers left. In 2013, as a member of the Oakland Raiders, Houston contributed for 69 tackles, 6 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive end ranked 11th among all 4-3 defensive ends, according to ProFootballFocus (Peppers 36th).
After the devastating loss in the season finale to the Green Bay Packers, safety help was a priority on Mel Tucker’s depth chart. The Bears agreed to a one-year contract with former Packer free safety M.D. Jennings. Jennings started all 16 games for the Packers in 2013 and accounted for 68 tackles. However, he failed to create a turnover in the 2013 season. Jennings stands at 6-feet and weighs in at 187 pounds. Jennings will be competing with Bears 2013 free safety Chris Conte.
The Bears also signed former New York Giant safety Ryan Mundy to a two-year deal. Mundy only started nine games for the Giants in 2013 before Will Hill took his starting job. Mundy’s ability to play safety is the only asset he brings to the Bears’ defense. Trestman and Emery will still look for a top safety in the 2014 NFL draft.
D.J. Williams and the Chicago Bears agreed to yet another one-year contract to bring Williams back for his second year at linebacker in Chicago. Williams plans to help stabilize the run defense that was the worst in the league in 2013. In starting the first six games last year, Williams brought the Bears 39 tackles and 3.5 sacks before suffering a season-ending pectoral tear. The Bears also signed linebacker Jordan Senn, a six-year veteran, to a one-year contract. Senn is a standout special teamer picking up on kicking and coverage assignments. In six seasons, he has seven defensive starts between the Colts and the Panthers.
Chicago’s new look on defense should have Mel Tucker and Bears fans everywhere excited for the 2014 season. Expect Phil Emery to continue to aggressively pursue defensive players in the free agent market and in the upcoming NFL draft.