The Chicago Bears made notable additions, and a very notable subtraction as the 2014 NFL free agency season kicked off on Tuesday. They are also rumored to have interest in a few impact players that are still free agents.

Let's break down the moves the Bears made on Tuesday, as well as the moves they're rumored to be considering:

Defensive end Lamarr Houston signs 5-year, $35 million deal

For the third straight year, Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery made a "splash" just minutes into the NFL's first day of free agency.

After landing wide receiver Brandon Marshall (via trade) in the first minutes of free agency of 2012, and tight end Martellus Bennett and left tackle Jermon Bushrod quickly in 2013, Emery made a big move by signing former Oakland Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston (pictured above) to a five-year, $35 million deal in the opening minutes of 2014 free agency.

Rather than write basically the same stuff all over again, I'm just going to copy/paste what I had to say about Lamarr Houston in our link dump, right before free agency began on Tuesday:

"Houston, 26, has never missed a game in four seasons, after being a second-round pick by the Raiders in 2010. Houston is listed as 6'3", 300 pounds, but plays quicker than his weight would lead you to believe. He can be a 4-3 defensive end, a 3-4 defensive end, and can move inside to defensive tackle (something he would likely do for the Bears in passing situations). Emery covets players that transcend scheme, and that should be the case even more this year with the Bears likely to mix things up schematically.

Houston's six sacks were a career-high in 2013 and a lower number than you'd like when paying a defensive end like a premier player, but the number is misleading when talking about Houston's overall productivity as a pass-rusher. Per Pro Football Focus, Houston had 41 quarterback hurries, tying him for ninth among 4-3 defensive ends (and one more than Michael Johnson, ironically), and 16 quarterback hits, tying him (with Michael Johnson ironically again) for eighth among 4-3 defensive ends. Remember, kids: disruption is production.

And where Houston really is stellar is against the run game (where the Bears were of course historically awful in 2013). Houston's 10.3 run-stop percentage (a PFF signature stat) ranked him first for 4-3 defensive ends in 2013.

So, Houston is a very good all-around defensive end that you can play all over the line, and he still has lots of upside at the young (for a free-agent) age of 26."

With Julius Peppers being released (more on that later in the post), Houston is just one of two new (unless they bring back Corey Wootton) starting defensive ends the Bears will need in 2014.

Houston will likely play the right defensive end position (where Wootton and McClellin) played in 2013, and move inside to defensive tackle on passing downs.

Coming into Tuesday, NFL.Com ranked Houston as their No. 5 free agent available, while Rotoworld's Evan Silva ranked the defensive end as their ninth overall free agent (and even predicted the five-year, $35 million deal with the Bears).

Speaking of the contract numbers, here's the specifics of the deal according to the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs:

Houston receives a five-year, $35 million contract and the deal includes $15 million guaranteed with $21 million paid in the first three years, an NFL source told the Tribune.
The former Oakland Raiders defensive end agreed to a $4.95 million signing bonus, a $3 million roster bonus, $1 million in base salary and a $50,000 workout bonus for 2014, meaning he will total $9 million in his first year. Houston has base salaries in 2015, '16 and '17 of $5.95 million and that climbs to $7.95 million in 2018. He gets workout bonuses of $50,000 each season. So the guaranteed money is $14.9 million, or $15 million if he attends the offseason workout program.

Julius Peppers released

We all expected Julius Peppers to be released by the Bears due to the massive $18 million+ cap hit the defensive end had set for 2014. Peppers had a disappointing 2013 season, showing signs of decline that shouldn't be surprising at the age of 33 (and turned 34 in January). And releasing Peppers would give the Bears over $9.8 million of cap space to work with. Truthfully, Peppers is probably about a $5 million player right now.

But even with knowing all of this, it was still a bit weird to see the Bears tweet this news on Tuesday, right?
The Bears cut Julius Peppers. I mean, Julius freaking Peppers! A generational talent. An absolute beast for so many years in the NFL. A future Hall of Famer.

But again, it was something the Bears had to do, and it now gives the team a much-needed $10 million (approximately) extra to work with in cap space.

Julius is still a productive player and should have several suitors for his services. Bears fans are certainly appreciative of the production Julius put together in his four years with the team (he didn't miss a game either), and best of luck to him wherever he may land next.

Safety Ryan Mundy signs 2-year deal

After defensive end, the next most obvious position the Bears needed to address entering free agency was safety. And not long after signing Lamarr Houston, the Bears struck a two-year deal with veteran safety Ryan Mundy.

The 6'1", 209-pound Mundy was drafted in 2009 by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the sixth round out of West Virginia. He played in every game for the Steelers through 2012, starting five of them. In 2013 he joined the New York Giants, appearing in all 16 games again, starting the first nine games before behind passed up on the depth chart by Will Hill (who went on to be PFF's No. 2 safety in 2013).

Mundy received a +0.2 (-0.7 in coverage, -0.6 vs the run) grade from PFF in 2013, ranking 37th among safeties. That is a very average grade, but still extremely better than the -27.4 grade (the worst among safeties) Major Wright received and the -15.8 grade Chris Conte received.

The 29-year-old safety had 77 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, one fumble recovery, two pass deflections, and one interception in 2013.

Mundy has also been an asset on special teams, recording 64 special teams tackles since 2009, the third-most special teams tackles in the league since that time.

Mundy has experience at both free safety and strong safety, and right now the Bears have no clear starter set for either position. Free safety Chris Conte is still in the fold, but will likely have nothing guaranteed entering training camp. Strong safety Major Wright is a free agent and will likely move on elsewhere; it would be better for both sides for that to be the case.

So, it would appear that Mundy will compete for a starting job, provide proven safety depth, and help on special teams. You wouldn't think he would be the Bears' top upgrade at safety this offseason, though. Safeties Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward, Donte Whitner, Malcolm Jenkins, Mike Mitchell, and Antoine Bethea have already signed with new teams, but solid veterans such as Chris Clemons are still out there. If the Bears choose to not bring in another capable starter at the position in free agency, you'd have to think they will attack the position with one of their early picks in the draft.

As for Mundy's contract details, we should find out more on Wednesday, but don't expect the price to be very expensive.

Linebacker D.J. Williams re-signs 1-year deal

Phil Emery has made it known that the team wanted to bring back veteran linebacker D.J. Williams, so it wasn't surprising at all when the two sides agreed to a one-year deal on Tuesday. Brad Biggs provided Williams' contract details:

After spending his first 10 years with the Denver Broncos (where he put up big numbers but also got into his fair share of off-the-field trouble), D.J. Williams signed with the Bears last offseason and started the team's first six games at middle linebacker, before going down for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

According to the Chicago Tribune's Dan Wiederer, "Williams was credited by team statistics with 39 tackles, including 3 ½ sacks and 4 1/2 other tackles for loss" over those six games with the Bears.

Williams looked much better at middle linebacker than rookie Jon Bostic did, and would currently enter training camp as the favorite to start at middle linebacker. Williams has experience playing in different linebacker spots, and different schemes, so his versatility is another plus for the Bears. There's several reasons to really like this move for the Bears, especially at the price.

Linebacker Jordan Senn signs one-year deal

Linebacker Blake Costanzo is expected to sign somewhere else over the offseason after being the Bears' special teams ace over the last two seasons. But, it appears the Bears have already found Costanzo's replacement in linebacker Jordan Senn, who signed a one-year deal with the team on Tuesday.

Senn, 30 in June, was the special teams' captain for the Carolina Panthers over the last couple of seasons, and was a member of Carolina since 2009. The 5'11', 224-pounder came into the league with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent out of Portland State in 2008.

Senn is very serious about special teams, understanding it's what keeps him valued in the league. Here's what Senn told about playing special teams:

"It's my career really," Senn said. "It's always been how I make my living. It's a hidden game that's underappreciated and a lot of times overlooked until it loses you a game. So it's a big thing. It takes a special kind of person to take on that role and to embrace that work that you have to put forward with really little appreciation."
Senn started seven games at linebacker for the Panthers in 2011, recording 71 tackles, three forced fumbles, and one interception. Like Costanzo, Senn would probably only get linebacker playing time with the Bears in an emergency situation (like, if a ton of injuries hit the position as was the case in '13), but he's proven capable of contributing there if need be.

The Bears now have six linebackers that you would expect to make the 53-man roster, in Lance Briggs, D.J. Williams, Jon Bostic, Shea McClellin, Khaseem Greene, and Senn. It's hard to see the team doing anything major at the position for the remainder of free agency, barring an injury of course.


The Bears were mentioned as being interested in a few other players on Tuesday that still remain free agents. The two most notable names that popped up were at the defensive end position, in Jared Allen and Justin Tuck.

ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that the Bears and Seattle Seahawks were talking to Allen, after the Denver Broncos had turned their defensive end attention to DeMarcus Ware:
Brad Biggs then said he doesn't see Allen and the Bears being a match, but it's hard to say if that's simply his speculation or based off sources he's spoken with:
ESPN Chicago's Michael C. Wright also doesn't think that happens, but clearly based on what he's heard:
Ty Youngfelt, who has had some good scoops on the Bears and particularly the Chicago Cubs in the past, tweeted that the Bears and Justin Tuck are "in play", for what that's worth:
Youngfelt also is hearing that free agent cornerback Cortland Finnegan (who may also be open to playing safety is interested in signing with the Bears, but the feeling is not mutual at the moment at least:

The Bears have reportedly shown interest in veteran wide receiver Domenix Hixon, who would likely play an Eric Weems-esque role on the team: a no. 4 or no. 5 receiver, and special teams contributor:
In regards to notable players among the Bears' own free agents, quarterback Josh McCown and Charles Tillman visited with Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Most reports have Tampa Bay as McCown's most likely landing spot if he chooses to not return to the Bears. Tillman seemed like a very good possibility to sign with the Bucs until the team signed cornerback Alterraun Verner to a huge deal on Tuesday night. Still, they're likely to release Darrelle Revis on Wednesday and Tillman is unlikely to break the bank, so he's still a possibility in Tampa.

Then there's defensive tackle Henry Melton, another possibility for the Bucs, but someone the Dallas Cowboys are reportedly quite fond of.

What to expect from the Bears in day two

One thing that we know the Bears will do for sure on Wednesday, is hold a press conference at 1:30 PM CT to introduce Lamarr Houston and Ryan Mundy to the media at Halas Hall.

As for actual player movement, the Bears may wait to learn more on their own free agents that they may have interest in bringing back, such as Josh McCown, Charles Tillman, Henry Melton, and Corey Wootton. All of those players would command multiple millions of dollars per season to sign, so if you have interest in bringing them all back, it's hard to go out spending much more money on other free agents until you find out what direction the aforementioned players are leaning.

But, in terms of the team's checklist, they still need another starting defensive end, another starting cornerback, a starting safety (or at least more quality competition), defensive tackle depth, a No. 2 quarterback (unless they  believe Jordan Palmer is that guy), a No. 2 running back (unless they believe Michael Ford is that guy), a No. 2 tight end, etc. So there is plenty of work to be done for Phil Emery between free agency and the draft. It will be interesting to see if they address any of these areas on Wednesday.

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