A Bears team that tied for the fewest sacks in the NFL last season began free agency by signing a defensive end who recorded fewer sacks than Julius Peppers, a defensive end the Bears couldn’t wait to get rid of because, well, he didn’t record enough sacks.
On the day the Bears terminated Peppers’ contract, they signed Lamarr Houston to a five-year deal. Playing for the Raiders last season, Houston managed a career-high six sacks, 1 1/2 fewer than the guy the Bears cut Tuesday.
The Bears desperately needed a pass rusher after last season. They became more desperate after Michael Bennett re-upped with the Seahawks on Monday.
What the Bears needed was the Peppers they signed in 2010. What they needed was a double-digit sack guy. What they got was a 6-foot-3, 300-pounder who isn’t that guy.
Who never has been that guy.
Maybe that guy wasn’t out there, but the Bears are committing to Houston as if he is. Committing to a defensive end who has 16 sacks in his career when the Bears need someone to do that in a season.
Perhaps Houston’s versatility will lead the Bears to move him inside and leave him there while signing a pure pass rusher on a deal shorter than Houston’s five-year agreement.
But that hasn’t happened yet.
So, we're left with this, and we’re left with this question: This is better?
In some ways, it is.
Houston is 26 and has started all 16 games for the last four seasons, which is more than a lot of Bears defensive players could say.
So, the good news is that it looks like he’ll be available on game day to frustrate us by a lack of production when Aaron Rodgers stands back there all day.
The thing that Houston does well is play the run, which happens to be something the Bears did horribly -- worse than anyone in the league, in fact.
Houston graded out better than almost any defensive end when it came to setting the edge and stopping the run. So, Houston isn’t likely to crash down every play the way Peppers and Shea McClellin did in making outside contain a rumor.
Coming from a three-man front, Houston’s versatility plays into the Bears’ idea of a hybrid scheme, but if they’re going to slide him inside in the nickel package, then they’ll have, who, McClellin rushing off the edge?
Do the Bears know McClellin had just four sacks last season? Do the Bears know that’s fewer than Houston managed? Does Phil Emery have any idea what a pass-rushing defensive end looks like?
After drafting the failed McClellin two years ago and now signing Houston in an attempt to make up for it, you have to wonder whether Emery understands the object of the exercise.
Emery needed a pass rusher two years ago, and then drafted a linebacker and tried to jam him into the position. Now McClellin is being moved to linebacker, where he might not be good enough to start, by the way.
This year, Emery again needed a pass rusher, and then he signed a defensive end who isn’t known as a pass rusher. There is growing evidence that Emery wouldn’t know a pass rusher if Lawrence Taylor asked him to snort a line.
I get the idea that anything the Bears put on their defensive line now is better than what they put out there last year.
But here’s the thing: When you pay good money for a defensive end, you want him to be a game-changer. You want him to be someone opponents have to game-plan for.
No question the Bears have to stop the run before they can worry about rushing the passer, but still, this feels a little bittersweet, or maybe backward:
The Bears signed a defensive who’s most effective at doing something they need from a defensive tackle, and they need a starting defensive tackle.