The real winner in this, of course, won't be determined until we check the standings at the end of December, perhaps the start of January. Maybe Phil Emery (who spent eight years at the U.S. Naval Academy) was previously a member of SEAL Team 6 with another stealth personnel move that came totally unexpected, under the radar, and a pleasant surprise. If you thought Ted Thompson's early-morning strike of former Bear Julius Peppers in Green Bay ten days ago came out of nowhere, his Bears counterpart may have one-upped him this morning.
Two weeks ago, Jared Allen was expected by many to be among the first free agents to sign when the bell rang at 3:00 p.m. But trips to last year's Super Bowl participants in Denver and Seattle didn't come up with the cash he was looking for. The Bears didn't have that cash, either. But Emery was busy dumping cash and rearranging money with the financial restraints he was under with the salary cap, still managing to pay a couple of defensive ends who were already generally regarded as overall upgrades from a year ago.
If Lamarr Houston and Willie Young (both stout against the run) have the ability and talent to move inside and drop back in coverage out of disguised looks, Mel Tucker may be able to disguise them even more with the addition of the right edge rushing staple that Allen provides. The Packers revealed at this week's NFL Owners Meetings that Peppers would be used in "elephant" mode in order to confuse opposing defenses, the Allen acquisition allows the defensive coordinator to do a lot with the cards he has in his deck, at the same average salary, and two years younger. He has 9.5 more career sacks than Peppers in two fewer years in the league. And the focus he'll require from opposing offenses will make Houston, Young, Jeremiah Ratliff, Shea McClellin and Jonathan Bostic better. The defensive backs, too.
Peppers, Corey Wootton (potentially "replacing" Allen in Minnesota), and Henry Melton (whose number 69 Allen will fit into) are out. Allen, Houston, Young, and Israel Idonije are in. With further additions through the draft, Emery will have done what he's promised with the defense that he did with the offense a year ago. Now it's up to Tucker and his additions to turn it around as quickly as the other side of the ball did. And find a way to beat Aaron Rodgers.