While the Bears cut ties with veterans Matt Forte, Antrel Rolle and Matt Slauson sooner rather than later this offseason, they have done nothing to hint that the immediate futures of outside linebackers Lamarr Houston and Willie Young project to be other than Chicago.
Just the opposite, in fact. Despite chatter that the Bears were shopping various veterans in the days around the draft, reports have the Bears not only open to extending Young’s contract, but also doing nothing with Houston and his nearly $6 million price tag for 2016. And John Fox is sounding like anything but a head coach who’s done with either edge threat.
“In year two, a lot of times there’s a big jump from freshman to sophomore, year one to year two, just in the scheme,” Fox said during the Bears’ rookie minicamp. “Two of our outside linebackers [Houston, Young] a year ago were coming off major injuries and really didn’t have an off-season. And they were making the transition from 4-3 ends earlier in their career to acclimating to a 3-4 outside linebacker.
“They’re going to have a full off-season this time around. So they were, and really everybody out there was, kind of new at outside linebacker because we got two new guys in free agency that we brought in, so there will be some growing pains.”
As the Bears headed into this offseason, with its Combine, draft and sundry transactions, the futures of Houston and Young were subjects of speculation. Team-leading sack totals (eight for Houston, 6.5 for Young) notwithstanding, the combination of salaries and age (Young turning 31 in September) put both at risk on a team looking to get younger and faster on defense.
Now, even with the expenditure of draft capital on Leonard Floyd, a decidedly Young-like outside pass rusher, the Bears do not appear inclined to let go of proven pass rushers.