Countdown to the 2014 NFL Draft: State of the Bears defensive line

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A look at the state of the Bears’ defensive line as the 2014 NFL Draft fast approaches.

The Good: The Bears waded carefully into the free agency waters, carefully choosing where to disperse the money. That didn’t mean they didn’t have a plan, though, and acted quickly. Recognizing the need to upgrade a poor defensive line from last year, the team jumped at signing defensive end Lamarr Houston. Houston, formerly of the Oakland Raiders, has great versatility and can play inside as well. The team also swooped up end Willie Young from the rival Detroit Lions. Young is still an unpolished player but flashed explosion when he got the opportunity to play last year. The team’s prized free agency catch, though, was former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. Allen plays with a relentless motor and hasn’t had fewer than 11 sacks in the past 7 seasons. He brings some playmaking and credibility to the defensive line, which should in turn help the secondary. The Bears also made some nice re-signings in defensive tackles Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins as well as long-time Bear Israel Idonije. The Bears did not completely fill the void left by the departure of three-technique Henry Melton, but their line certainly looks better than it did a year ago.

The Bad: The bad at this point is the uncertainty of how the pieces will fit together. Is Houston the answer at end opposite Allen? And for that matter, does Allen still have enough left in the tank to make a difference? The Bears lost three key linemen in Julius Peppers, Corey Wootton, and Melton. It’s arguable that they’ve improved with the subtraction of those guys and the addition of the new pieces. But the key pieces of the line have a lot of age on it with Allen and Ratliff north of 30. Collins is coming off of a torn ACL, Young is still raw, and the depth of the line is in question. All of this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Bears, it’s just uncertain. It’s possible the new pieces can jell together and become a strength.

Next Up: Countdown to the 2014 NFL Draft: State of the Bears linebackers

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