Bears Sign Lamarr Houston, Grading the Move and What It Means for Chicago

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IMarch 11, 2014

Oakland Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston (99) before an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

The defensive revolution in Chicago began in earnest Tuesday, when the Bears opened up free agency by signing former Oakland Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Houston and the Bears agreed to a five-year deal worth $35 million. The agreement includes $15 million in guarantees, per Ian Rapoport of 

A former second-round pick of the Raiders in 2010, Houston will now make $7 million per season in Chicago. His deal ended up being very similar to the one Michael Bennett signed with the Seattle Seahawks, who gave Chicago's original top target four years, $28.5 million and $16 million guaranteed before the start of free agency. 

Houston is now expected to be a centerpiece of the defensive overhaul for the Bears, who finished last season among the NFL's worst in points and yards allowed. 

The 26-year-old Houston is coming off his most productive season rushing the passer, finishing 2013 with a career-high six sacks and 16 quarterback hits. He has 16 career sacks over four NFL seasons. 

The Bears had just 31 sacks all of last season, which tied the Jacksonville Jaguars for least in the NFL. Only 21 of the 31 sacks came from the defensive line. 

But while the 6'3", 300-pound Houston is still ascending as a pure pass-rusher, few defensive ends are better at stopping the run or providing versatility along the defensive line. 

Lamarr Houston, 2013 Season
Total4-3 DE Rank
QB Sacks624th (t)
QB Hits168th (t)
QB Hurries419th
Total QB Disruptions6312th
Total Stops541st
Run Stops401st
PFF Grade+11.411th (t)
Source: Pro Football Focus

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Houston finished last season ranked as the fifth-best 4-3 defensive end against the run. His 54 "stops," or what PFF considers a tackle that constitutes a failure for the offense, led all players at his position. 

Of his 69 total tackles, 10 went for losses, second most on the Raiders defense.  

Oakland finished last season ranked 13th against the run, while the Bears found themselves a distant 32nd. Chicago allowed 161.4 rushing yards a game, or almost 30 more than the next-worst run defense. The 5.3 yards per carry allowed by the Bears defense was the highest over a single season since 1970. 

Adding a wide-bodied, edge-setting defensive end should be a step in the right direction for stopping the run more effectively in 2014. 

The Bears will also like Houston's ability to play outside as an edge-rusher or inside at the three-technique. The Raiders routinely moved him around the line based on the situation. He's spent time as a left defensive end and three-technique, although most of his snaps in 2013 came as Oakland's right defensive end. His best position might be as a strong-side defensive end, where he can use his power and quickness to stuff the run without the tremendous weight of being a featured pass-rusher. 

Also, if the Bears end up losing free-agent defensive tackle Henry Melton, Houston could be used an early-down defensive end and an interior pass-rusher in the nickel and dime defenses. 

Next up for the Bears is deciding if Houston will play with Julius Peppers next season. The veteran defensive end is scheduled to count over $18 million against Chicago's cap in 2014. Schefter suggested that the Bears are actively shopping Peppers, but it remains unlikely Chicago will find any suitors. 

For now, the Bears will find comfort in the acquisition of a new defensive lineman.   

There was a certainly a sting for the Bears in losing out on Bennett, a seemingly perfect fit for what an ailing Chicago defense needed at defensive end. But getting Houston, who many considered one of the top available edge-rushers in free agency, at a reasonable price has to be considered a fine consolation prize. 

The Bears' No. 1 goal this offseason was to add young, talented players on defense. Houston fits the bill. 

Grade: A-

Zach Kruse covers the NFC North for Bleacher Report. 


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