The Chicago Bears free agency plan isn’t quite set. It likely won’t be until the market is set to open come March. Until then they’ve placed their focus where it belongs, dealing with their own free agents. They’ve already re-signed Bobby Massie and word is they’re in discussions with others like Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan.
With that said, it’s generally agreed GM Ryan Pace has no plans to play it passive this offseason. He knows his team is close to making a legitimate run at the Super Bowl. It feels like they might be one or two more quality players away. So he stated in his most recent press conference that the plan is to stay aggressive.
The issue is a simple one: resources. Chicago has just five draft picks (none in the 1st or 2nd round) and a limited amount of salary cap space. They should be able to create enough room for one bold stroke on the market provided they find somebody worth the pursuit. Based on the latest rumblings, they could see an unexpected name drop out of nowhere.
Chicago Bears may have a shot at pass rusher Justin Houston
According to Nate Taylor of The Athletic, there is a serious buzz around the Kansas City Chiefs. One that could see them make some major changes to their defense. The biggest and most unexpected? That would be the release of outside linebacker Justin Houston.
“In his eighth season, Houston was mostly healthy and productive in recording nine sacks and one interception, and he had a stellar performance in the Chiefs’ playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts. However, Houston has the largest cap hit on the team. It’s still possible he restructures his contract to remain with the Chiefs, but at no point during this season did he indicate that was a consideration for him. The Chiefs would save $14 million in cap space by cutting Houston.”
Based on the numbers from OverTheCap.com, the Chiefs have over $26 million in space. So one would think they shouldn’t be so hard-pressed to get rid of one of their best defenders. However, there are other issues in play. Two other of their key defenders in linebacker Dee Ford and defensive end Chris Jones are due new deals. Both are younger (27 and 24) than Houston (30).
If the Chiefs want to keep both, as they should, then it may take sacrificing Houston to afford it. Never mind the fact that Tyreek Hill’s contract expires in 2020, so that’s another large deal they have to prepare for. Kansas City has shown they can make hard roster decisions before. They traded All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters last offseason. Sacrificing Houston for the long-term is something they’d do.
A potential Justin Houston-Khalil Mack pairing is just too good to ignore
With all due respect to Leonard Floyd, he’s not what Houston is in terms of being an NFL pass rusher. Houston has had 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons despite missing five games with minor injuries. He’s always had to be the main guy in the past. So try to imagine how liberating it could be for him to play across from Khalil Mack.
There are plenty of reasons to believe Houston would want to come to Chicago. They run a 3-4 defense under Chuck Pagano. He’d get to play with Mack obviously, and most important he’d reunite with a coach he knows well in Matt Nagy who was with the Chiefs as an assistant from 2013 to 2017. The only obstacle would be money. How high would he set his price and could the Bears meet it?
At this stage of his career, Houston has earned over $71.5 million. So it’s reasonable to assume money won’t be his primary aim. He’s at that point where he’s trying to win a championship. The Bears, after going 12-4 last season, seem poised to make a run. Something he could absolutely help with. It’s not a hard sell and is absolutely worth any short-term financial headaches.