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.
General manager 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.
Young, who turns 29 in September, did not start from 2010 through 2012 and broke out last season, earning the chance to get a multiyear 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.
According to Pro Football Focus, Young was the 16th-best 4-3 defensive end. His 48 quarterback hurries ranked third and he had a plus-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.”
Young is looking forward to bookending the Bears’ defensive line with another aggressive player, Houston.
“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.”
New return option: The Bears signed receiver Domenik Hixon to a one-year deal. He had only seven catches last year, but went over 500 receiving yards twice in his career. Emery said Hixon will get a chance to return kicks in practice and the preseason.
Melton still looking: Emery acknowledged that Henry Melton is visiting with other teams – Melton reportedly met with the Vikings on Thursday – and that the two sides would talk at some point when Melton has seen his market, but added, “Of course, the clock’s ticking.” Melton is being sued by the owner of the bar in Texas where he was arrested in December, according to a report. Emery would not comment on the legal issue.
Peanut’s status: Charles Tillman left Tampa Bay without a contract to reunite with Lovie Smith, which is a positive sign if the Bears still wanted to bring him back, although Emery said the situation was, “no different than yesterday. It’s an ongoing process.”
Rosario back: The strange back and forth with the Bears and tight end Dante Rosario continued Thursday when the team re-signed him, per the league’s transaction wire. Rosario was going to be a free agent and first re-signed a one-year deal Feb. 27. He was mysteriously released Monday.