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Willie Young stays in NFC North, signs deal with Chicago Bears

Willie Young signs deal with Chicago BearsWillie Young had 48 QB hurries but just three sacks last season. (Duane Burleson/AP)

The Chicago Bears rounded out their pass-rushing rotation on Thursday, signing former Lions DE Willie Young to a three-year deal worth a reported $9 million dollars ($3.95 guaranteed).

Hard to find much fault in that move. Young was something of a forgotten man last season as a starter alongside Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and rookie Ziggy Ansah. That he only managed to produce three sacks despite Fairley and Suh drawing extra attention inside was something of a disappointment for the Lions, but Young did turn in 48 QB hurries, one of the top numbers in the league. Should the 2010 seventh-round pick ever manage to turn that level of disruption into more tangible sack numbers, he could be a force off the edge.

Even if he simply repeats his 2013 performance, the Bears will be satisfied. Earlier in free agency, they landed ex-Raider Lamarr Houston to take Julius Peppers' place as the No. 1 pass-rushing threat. Also expected to help there is 2012 first-round pick Shea McClellin, who will shift to a linebacker spot from DE this season, according to GM Phil Emery.

The talent compiled at end and outside linebacker also points toward the Bears targeting defensive tackle from here out, including in the draft. Young certainly benefited from having that Fairley-Suh combo alongside him, and though the Bears will not be able to recreate that level of talent in one offseason, a prospect like Louis Nix III or Aaron Donald could pay dividends immediately.

MORE COVERAGE: 2014 NFL free agency tracker, grades

An underrated bonus of the Houston and Young signings: durability. Young played all 16 games (15 starts) in 2013, while Houston was on the field for more than 1,000 snaps. Chicago should feel comfortable with the two together as a starting DE tandem.

Grade: B-plus. Young was one of the better under-the-radar talents available in free agency. This is a perfect role for him, too -- the No. 2 DE in a mostly 4-3 defense, on a team that resides in the NFC North division with which Young's very familiar. Very solid addition for the Bears.
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