The market for pass rushers is always among the most important in any offseason, from the first offseason of free agency (1993, when Reggie White went to Green Bay) to this season’s. That market became even tighter this week with the Carolina Panthers applying the franchise tag to defensive end Greg Hardy and the Washington Redskins doing the same for rush-linebacker Brian Orakpo.
While the Bears were unlikely to be players in the courtship of either — their teams were expected to tag them if no long-term deal was reached — any player removed from a market tightens that market by definition. The Bears are desperately in need of signings on the defensive line, whether re-signing their own or competing in the market.
The premier pass rusher left on the market after the wave of franchise tags is Michael Bennett, whom the Seattle Seahawks are endeavoring to re-sign but was not tagged by the Super Bowl winners. Bennett played last season on a one-year deal worth $5 million and placed himself at the top of the market with 8.5 sacks in addition to a Super Bowl pedigree.
Lamarr Houston posted six sacks last season for the Oakland Raiders. But Houston is 302 pounds, big for an end in the Bears’ single-gap scheme.
The Bears’ needs at defensive tackle have involved discussions of their own: Henry Melton, Jeremiah Ratliff, Nate Collins. But Seattle got 5.5 sacks from unheralded Clinton McDonald, 6-2, 295 pounds, who at age 27 and out of an aggressive 4-3 scheme projects as a preferred target because of age and lack of the injury history that is there with Collins, Melton and Ratliff.