Adding a Complementary Defensive End Key to Bears Success in 2012

| January 10th, 2012

I don’t get too excited about writing those “ten things the Bears need to do this offseason” columns that seem to inundate the internet in the immediate aftermath of every NFL season. We all know what the Bears need: backup quarterback (they’ll have options), number one wide receiver (they have great FA options), offensive line health and some depth where they are beginning to age on defense (LB, CB).

The Bears are in a rather wonderful position heading into this offseason. Here is a tweet from Sun-Times beat man Sean Jensen that sums it up:

Yes, it is a huge draft for the #Bears with 4 picks in first 3 rounds. But, they also have most cap space in NFC North.

It is the cap space that intrigues me and it is the cap space that should be used to add not only a wideout but a position of equal importance: situational pass rusher opposite Julius Peppers.

While most NFL analysts out there are yelling and screaming about a team needing seventeen wide receivers and 500 yards passing a week to challenge for the Super Bowl, I have consistently gone the other way. I think you can win the big game running the ball and making plays through the air in the red zone. I think you can win with excellent special teams and disciplined defense. But I think, without question, you can not win a championship without great pass rush. And the Bears pass rush has simply been too inconsistent.

Julius Peppers is great. No question about it. But he is an every down defensive end that tends to understandably wear down as the season progresses. He needs help. Who is out there?

Robert Mathis is 30 years old but has a life of experience playing defensive end in the exact system. You can pencil him in for double-digit sacks in a Bears uniform. Mario Williams is one of the true young stars of the game and while he’ll cost a fortune, he’ll be worth every dime. Cliff Avril was a revelation for the Lions this year and they will need to open their wallets to keep him. The question facing their organization is how much money can they pump into their defensive line as their secondary continues to get torched for 40 points a week? Osi Umenyiora is not going to be a three-down man on the outside but he’s come to earn the nickname “the closer” in a city that understands that position better than anywhere else in the country. When the game is on the line, nobody is better at getting to the QB than Osi.

There is also the draft, of course, and the Bears will have their sights set on pass rushers in the same way the other thirty-one clubs do each April. But the chances of finding a man, even with the 18th overall selection, who’ll dominate the edge on Sundays is unlikely. (Especially not in 2012 – his first year.) These guys are the most coveted prize in the post L.T. NFL and the Giants seem to know where they are before the rest of the league does.

Use the cap and get the pass catcher, of course. But remember that if the Bears do not add a legitimate sack man opposite Julius Peppers they will be staring up at big numbers on scoreboard when they face BOTH their rivals to the north. Don’t attempt to join the high-flying circus offenses. Not when you’ve already got one of the most consistent run games in the league. You are the Chicago Bears. Concentrate your efforts on taking the circus tents down. Do it with a pass rush.