The Bears found a starter opposite Lamarr Houston, staying in the NFC North to sign former Lions defensive end Willie Young to a three-year contract.
GM Phil Emery said he had a goal during free agency to find two starting defensive linemen, and he explained the type of player he seeked to improve last year's woeful unit.
"...Our goal and our thoughts about defensive players is to get the toughest, most aggressive, instinctive players that have a little bit of an old-school mentality, a Bear mentality," he said on a conference call. "And we certainly feel that Willie has those attributes and we’re excited about him being here."
Last season, Young played in all 16 games with 15 starts and set career-highs, recording 47 tackles, three sacks and five passes defensed. He also had seven tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits.
"I'm looking forward to a very aggressive defense here in the making," Young said.
"This is a long football player," said Emery. "Willie’s 6-5, he’s got 35-inch arms. He uses that advantage to gain leverage and separation. He’s got strong hands, a good punch. He’s a good athkete with a lot of upside."
Young, who turns 29 in September, did not start from 2010-12 and broke out last season, earning the chance to get a multi-year deal on the free-agent market. The Bears didn’t have to spend a ton, either, to get him — according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, Young’s contract is worth $9 million with $3.45 million guaranteed.
Young was visiting the Jaguars, he said, when he got a call about Chicago. The whole deal "happened within a few hours. ... "I'm excited to be at my new home, now snow and all."
According to Pro Football Focus, Young was the 16th-best 4-3 defensive end. His 48 quarterback hurries ranked third and he had a +5.1 grade against the run. Overall, Young was charted for 60 quarterback pressures, but only the three sacks.
"It’s very interesting to me sometimes at how things pan out, when you work so hard and move so fast to get to the quarterback and somehow either he gets rid of it or he slips away from you, I don’t know," Young said. "But it is what it is.”
Currently, the defensive ends on the Bears’ roster include Houston, Young, David Bass, Cheta Ozougwu, Trevor Scott and Austen Lane. Young and Houston are slotted as the starters, while another D-end is certainly coming via the draft or free agency to compete to be the No. 3. Emery said it's not set who would start on either end with more additions to come.
Houston got the big contract on Tuesday, and Young is looking forward to bookending the Bears' D-line with another aggressive player.
"I’m very excited about lining up next to him at some point and making the best of the opportunity I have," he said. "I don’t see offenses being able to slide one way or the other based on a disadvantage or one player not being able to play up to expectations. I think we’re somewhat similar.
"Offenses are going to have to figure out some kind of way to stop two guys who are coming off the edge with no intentions other than to harass quarterbacks.”