Team Report - CHICAGO BEARS

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INSIDE SLANT

Defensive end Jared Allen signed a four-year, $32 million deal with the Chicago Bears, who were not known to be in the bidding for one of the NFL's most productive pass rushers.

Allen, 31, is the third free-agent defensive end to sign in Chicago this offseason. He joins Lamarr Houston, who could play defensive tackle, and Willie Young on the overhauled Bears defense.

The contract structure sets up as a likely two-year contract but with $15.5 million guaranteed, Allen certainly has enough incentive to keep chasing quarterbacks. His 2014 and 2015 salaries are fully guaranteed.

Allen's agent broke off talks with the Minnesota Vikings three days before the start of unrestricted free agency, when Minnesota committed $42.5 million to sign Everson Griffen to a five-year deal. Allen considered retirement but took visits to Dallas and Seattle and had interest from other teams, including the Denver Broncos.

"I'd like to take a moment to thank my former teammates, coaches and the staff at the Minnesota Vikings for all of their inspiring work and dedication," Allen said. "Perhaps more importantly I would like to thank the fans and the Minnesota community. I can only hope that I have left you all with even a fraction of the positive support and impact you have had on my life, my foundation and my family.

"I am very excited about this next chapter in my career with the Chicago Bears and can't wait to see what the future holds for us. God bless."

Signing Allen adds to the musical chairs among pass rushers in the NFC North. Julius Peppers, released by the Bears earlier this month, joined the Green Bay Packers.

"Certainly, organizationally and collectively, we're excited about bringing in a guy who has shown durability, dependability, a great motor and has played at a high level for such a long time," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "And the fact that Jared is excited about being a Bear -- and I'm sure he'll speak more to that -- and wanting to hopefully finish his career in Chicago is exciting to all of us. He's going to bring certainly great value both on the field and in the locker room."

Allen recorded his seventh consecutive double-digit sack season and eighth overall of his 10-year career. He started all 16 games for the sixth consecutive season, compiling 11.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, 52 tackles (33 solo), six pass deflections and two forced fumbles for Minnesota.

Allen leads the NFL in sacks with 128.5 since entering the league as a fourth-round draft pick (126th overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2004. In 157 career games, Allen has started 151, totaling 558 tackles (445 solo), five interceptions -- including one returned for a touchdown -- 51 batted passes, 29 forced fumbles, 17 fumble recoveries and is tied for a NFL record four safeties. In 2009, he joined Reggie White as the only NFL players to notch at least 14.5 sacks in three straight seasons (2007-09).

Allen broke the Vikings single-season sack record with 22 in 2011 and came within one-half sack of matching the NFL single-season record. It was the second time Allen has led the league in sacks, a feat he first accomplished in 2007 with 15.5.

--Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery didn't' get a shot at No. 1 target, so he immediately hit target No. 2 with Oakland Raiders free agent defensive end LaMarr Houston.

Michael Bennett signed to remain in Seattle before free agency started, so Houston became the Bears' defensive end free agent target even though he drew little overall interest beyond the Bears and Green Bay Packers. And the Packers' interest reportedly waned as the cost of the defensive end market was inflated with each signing prior to free agency.

By signing Houston, the Bears succeeded in accomplishing something Emery has said they needed on defense: to get bigger. Houston is 6-foot-3, 302 pounds.

"I'll just say that my personal preference is bigger is always better as long as you're not sacrificing athleticism and speed," Emery said. "This is a fast game, but it's a very physically tough, impactful game and you need bigger bodies over time to win those matchups."

Part of the intent was to improve defensively against the run in addition to adding a pass rusher. The Bears ranked last against the run in 2013.

In Houston, the Bears have a 4-3 end who can also move inside and play the three technique. Or if they line up in a 3-4 he can be a defensive end. It was this type of versatility that drew them initially to Bennett -- along with the fact he is their own tight end, Martellus' brother.

Chicago's idea this year is to be multiple on defense, with the ability to switch up fronts as opposed to always using the static 4-3 with one-gap technique up front that they've used for a decade.

In looking for a defensive end, the Bears didn't necessarily think they would find a double-digit sack man and they didn't. Emery likes to look at how disruptive a player can be on defense, and in Houston they have a player who did this.

Last year, Houston had a career-best 56 tackles and six sacks, but he also had 16 quarterback hits, which was eighth best in the NFL. He had 41 hurries, which ranked ninth among 4-3 defensive ends.

The cost for the Bears was $35 million on a five-year deal, with $15 million guaranteed. A total of $21 million will come in the first three years.

The move seemed a popular one with at least one Bear, guard Kyle Long. Via Twitter, Long said last year prior to the draft he "wrestled and trained," with Houston and was impressed.

"He is hungry and he's got that non-stop motor," Long said.

On the other hand, this is a defensive end with just 16.5 career sacks. And with Oakland did not make a real move to bring him back despite having a reported $66 million in camp money available.

With the signing, the Bears cut veteran Julius Peppers. They also added Detroit defensive end Willie Young later in the week.

"We appreciate Julius' contributions to the Bears over the last four years," Emery said. "He was a leader on our defense starting every game since coming to Chicago. His accomplishments over his NFL career place him among the best defensive ends over the past 20 years."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The NFL announced each team's preseason schedule without precise dates or times, except for national TV games and the final preseason week in which all games will be on Thurs. Aug. 28. Week 1 games are Aug. 7-10, Week 2 Aug. 14-18 and Week 3 Aug. 21-24.

The Bears will play at home against Philadelphia in Week 1 and Jacksonville in Week 2, while going on the road to play Seattle in Week 3 and Cleveland in Week 4. The game against the Jaguars will be at 7 p.m. Central time Thursday, Aug. 14 on ESPN.

--Bears strong safety Chris Conte had shoulder surgery in late March that will sideline him for four to five months.

Conte, who started 16 games last season, is expected to return for training camp this summer, according to the team's website.

The three-year veteran totaled 95 tackles, three interceptions, seven pass breakups and one forced fumble in his first year as a full-time starter in 2013. Conte, a third-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, has 40 career starts.

"I know I'm going to have to compete for my position on this team," the 25-year-old Conte told the Bears' website. "I am prepared to do that and felt having this surgery was the best way to be 100 percent healthy and be the best player I can possibly be."

--The Bears agreed to terms with defensive end Israel Idonije on a one-year deal and terminated the contract of veteran wide receiver Earl Bennett. They also re-signed safety Craig Steltz and added safety Danny McCray from the Cowboys.

The 6-foot-6, 275-pound Idonije returns to the Bears -- where he spent nine seasons (2004-12) -- after one year in Detroit (2013). Idonije was used sparingly with the Lions, finishing the season with just seven total tackles and half a sack.

For his NFL career, Idonije has started 50 of 149 games played (starting at both defensive end and defensive tackle), registering 273 tackles, 29 sacks, 40 tackles for losses, six forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. He has added 36 special teams tackles and eight blocked kicks.

Over the last four seasons (2010-13), including three with the Bears (2010-12), Idonije has recorded 21 sacks, 33 tackles for losses, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

After falling to the fifth option in the passing attack, Bennett managed just 243 receiving yards on 32 catches primarily out of the slot last season.

Cutting Bennett created $2.45 million in salary-cap space for the Bears, according to Pro Football Talk. Bennett was due nearly $2.5 million this season.

--When cornerback Charles Tillman reached free agency, it was believed there was a good chance he would join former Bears head coach Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay. But that didn't happen, and Tillman signed a one-year contract to return to the Bears March 14.

Tillman has spent all 11 of his NFL seasons with the Bears, and he was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2012. Last season he was limited to eight games by a triceps injury that threatened to end his career.

"Charles is one of the NFL's great players and a true leader on and off the field and we're happy he will be staying in Chicago," Bears general manager Phil Emery said. "He remains the best in our game at forcing turnovers and always has brought a tough, physical presence to our secondary. Charles also has a special connection to the people and community across Chicago and we're excited for that to continue."

--There are currently no plans to cut safety Chris Conte, even though he may be the most unpopular Bear after his mistake in pass coverage led to the Bears missing the playoffs. He has another year left on his contract.

"Chris knows he has to come in and compete to start," Emery said. "My vision for him is that he does compete and win it. I'd love to be talking to him about an extension. So let's see what he does."

--Signing LB Jordan Senn, the former Carolina Panther, was a move made to bolster special teams. Senn likely will be counted on to replace their own free agent, Blake Costonzo, but has been a starter at times in the past so he provides better linebacker depth. Senn had 68 special teams tackles in six seasons with the Panthers.

--The run defense also looks improved with the signing of veteran middle linebacker D.J. Williams to a one-year contract.

Williams had 39 tackles, two sacks and 4 1/2 tackles for loss last year. He missed all of training camp with a calf injury, missed a couple starts and suffered a torn pectoral muscle, in the sixth game. When Williams went out for the year, the Bears run defense still ranked 12th despite having lost defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins to season-ending injuries earlier. Within six weeks of losing Williams, they had plummeted to last in the league.

--The draft would appear to be where the Bears will look to find a short-yardage or backup running back after they released Michael Bush. The move was anticipated because it cleared $1.85 million against the cap. Bush averaged 3.4 yards per carry in two years with the Bears.

--The signing of Jordan Palmer to a one-year deal ensures at least one backup will have knowledge of the offense, as he was with the team in training camp and then in the regular season.

--The thought in signing safety Ryan Mundy for two years is not necessarily an attempt to find a starter. Mundy started only 15 games in five NFL seasons, 10 of those last year with the Giants' struggling pass defense. With starter Major Wright allowed to leave as a free agent, the Bears are in need of depth at a position where they figure to look for help to fill in the draft.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--The Bears agreed to terms with C Brian de la Puente on a one-year contract.

The 6-foot-3, 306-pound de la Puente has started 44 of 48 games played over the last three seasons (2011-13) for the New Orleans Saints, with all 44 starts coming at center. He also started all four postseason contests at center during his time in New Orleans.

Over the last three seasons, de la Puente manned the middle of a Saints offensive line that allowed just 87 sacks, second fewest in the NFL. During that time, the Saints offense was second in the league in scoring offense (29.6 points per game) and tops in the NFL in total offense (425.8 yards per game) and passing offense (318.0 ypg).

According to the Chicago Tribune, the deal is for the minimum veteran salary, with a $65,000 signing bonus and $100,000 base salary guaranteed.

--Free safety M.D. Jennings agreed to a one-year contract with the Bears.

Jennings started all 16 games for the Green Bay Packers last season. He'll join a secondary that added former Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants safety Ryan Mundy in free agency.

Jennings became the starting free safety in Green Bay last summer when Morgan Burnett was moved to strong safety.

He is a sure tackler with limitations in coverage and was not tendered as a restricted free agent by the Packers, making him a free agent despite an active streak of 26 consecutive starts.

TEAM NEEDS

--CORNERBACK: Charles Tillman went on the open market, but was re-signed and backup Zack Bowman left for the Giants. Tim Jennings was retained during the offseason, but he has never been a No. 1 corner. Finding a cornerback remains a draft priority.

--SAFETY: As unpopular as Chris Conte is after allowing the big play to keep the Bears out of the playoffs, until they signed Mundy he was the only safety who could claim real starting experience. They didn't tender Anthony Walters a restricted offer, although he could come back at a lower amount. They also re-signed Craig Steltz and added Green Bay's M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray of Dallas. Conte underwent shoulder surgery in early April that might not have jhim ready for training camp.

PERSONNEL TRACKER

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

--S Anthony Walters (not tendered as ERFA) might be brought back at a minimum salary as free agency progresses.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--LB James Anderson has drawn no interest from the team. The move of Shea McClellin to the strong side, with second-year linebacker Khaseem Greene already there, makes it a crowded spot. And the Bears are looking at Jonathan Bostic now as a future outside linebacker as opposed to a MIKE.

--DT Landon Cohen has had no interest. With Nate Collins and Jeremiah Ratliff returning, Cohen would only be added as camp competition. He struggled last year after signing on and being thrust into starting time due to injuries.

--LB Blake Costanzo appears to be done in Chicago, although other teams may find use for him as a special teams player. He didn't provide depth for the defense as a special teams player only.

--LS Patrick Mannelly's return to the Bears will depend on whether he wants to come back and whether general manager Emery believes he can continue to play on punt coverage without being a liability at age 39.

--T Jonathan Scott was inactive all last season and won't be back after the team found tackle help elsewhere.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGNETS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--T/G Eben Britton: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--DT Nate Collins: Potential UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--QB Jay Cutler: Potential UFA; $126.7M/7 yrs, $54M guaranteed.

--C Robert Garza: Potential UFA; $1.5M/1 yr, $100,000 SB.

--K Robbie Gould: Potential UFA; $15M/4 yrs, $3M SB/$8.85M guaranteed.

--CB Kelvin Hayden: Potential UFA; $855,000/1 yr.

--CB Tim Jennings: Potential UFA; $22.4M/4 yrs, $3M SB/$11.8M guaranteed.

--CB Sherrick McManis: UFA; $730,000/1 yr.

--QB Jordan Palmer: Potential UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--DT Jeremiah Ratliff: Potential UFA; $4M/2 yrs, $600,000 SB.

--TE Dante Rosario: FA; terms unknown.

--G Matt Slauson: Potential UFA; $12.8M/4 yrs, $1.67M SB/$4.9M guaranteed.

--S Craig Steltz: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--CB Charles Tillman: UFA; $3.25M/1 yr, $500,000 SB.

--LB D.J. Williams: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--DE Jared Allen: UFA Vikings; $32M/4 yrs, $15.5M guaranteed.

--WR Josh Bellamy (waivers Redskins).

--C Brian de la Puente: UFA Saints; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--DE Lamarr Houston: UFA Raiders; $35M/5 yrs, $4.95M SB/$15M guaranteed.

--WR Domenik Hixon: UFA Panthers; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--DE Israel Idonije: UFA Lions; $955,000/1 yr.

--S M.D. Jennings: Not tendered as RFA by Packers; terms unknown.

--S Danny McCray: UFA Cowboys; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--TE Zach Miller: FA; $645,000/1 yr.

--TE Matthew Mulligan: UFA Patriots; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--S Ryan Mundy: UFA Giants; $3M/2 yrs, $650,000 SB.

--TE Fendi Onobun: FA; $1.23M/2 yrs.

--DE Trevor Scott: FA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--LB Jordan Senn: UFA Panthers; $795,000/1 yr.

--DE Willie Young: UFA Lions; $9M/3 yrs, $2M SB/$3.95M guaranteed.

PLAYERS LOST

--WR Earl Bennett (released).

--CB Zack Bowman: UFA Giants; terms unknown.

--RB Michael Bush (released).

--KR Devin Hester: UFA Falcons; 3 yrs, terms unknown.

--QB Josh McCown: UFA Buccaneers; $10M/2 yrs.

--DT Henry Melton: UFA Cowboys; $27.5M/4 yrs, $1.25M SB ($24M is in final three years).

--DE Julius Peppers (released).

--P Adam Podlesh (released).

--DE Corey Wootton: UFA Vikings; $1.5M/1 yr, $400,000 SB.

--S Major Wright: UFA Buccaneers; 1 yr, terms unknown.

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