Bears Urged to Add 4-Time Pro Bowl Edge Rusher on Value Deal

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Getty Bears head coach Matt Eberflus should be getting some upgrades for his defense in 2023 free agency.

The Chicago Bears still have a lot of work to do on their defensive front. At the top of that list is adding at least one more quality edge rusher this offseason.

Options abound for a franchise with 10 draft picks and a league-leading $35.9 million in salary cap space. Chicago may draft help off the edge with the No. 9 overall pick, though the majority of draft experts currently project the team to select its left tackle of the future in that slot. Pass rushers are then likely to become a priority in the second and third rounds, when general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus pick at Nos. 53, 61 and 64.

Whether Chicago can procure an immediate difference maker in that range of the draft is a toss up, which means the Bears probably look to free agency to add at least one more bonafide edge defender on a short-term deal.

David Kenyon of Bleacher Report on Monday, April 17, put together a list of bargain free agents teams will be looking to sign after the NFL Draft concludes at the end of this month. Included in that group was Baltimore Ravens pass rusher Justin Houston, who could be the perfect fit in Chicago on a one-year deal worth an exceedingly reasonable $4.5 million.

Bears Represent Suitable Fit for Justin Houston if He Leaves Ravens

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GettyEdge rusher Justin Houston of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after sacking quarterback Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers during a game at M&T Bank Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Kenyon’s thought was that Houston should push for a return to Baltimore and chase a ring, though that’s a precarious proposition at the moment given the uncertain future of former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson.

The 34-year-old edge rusher expressed interest in January in a return to the Ravens for the 2023 campaign, though his rhetoric hardly made another deal sound imminent.

“The way I feel right now — I’ll be back,” Houston said on January 16, per the Ravens’ team website. “We’ll see if the chips work out, and I’ll be here. That’s out of my control. We’ll see what they do. I’d like to be back here.”

If ring chasing is Houston’s priority, he may not be overly interested in deal to join the Bears, as Chicago is clearly in rebuild mode. That said, the Bears do have more certainty under center than the Ravens at the moment and a talent trajectory tracking on a serious upward arc. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Chicago could compete for a playoff spot next season in a weak NFC North Division.

Assuming a leap from quarterback Justin Fields and that Poles makes similarly effective moves to the one he pulled off trading the top overall pick to the Carolina Panthers for an absolute haul, the Bears could be significant players in the postseason come 2024.

Justin Houston Made Major Impact for Ravens in 2022 Despite Age

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GettyEdge rusher Justin Houston #50 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after a fumble recovery during a game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Houston played the 2022 season, his 12th in the NFL, at the age of 33. But despite a dozen years on the gridiron, the former third-round pick has yet to meaningfully slow down.

The four-time Pro Bowler appeared in 14 games for the Ravens last year as a pass-rush specialist, tallying 25 quarterback pressures, 17 quarterback hits and 9.5 sacks, per Pro Football Reference.

Houston played in Baltimore last season on a one-year deal worth $3.5 million.

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