Don’t tell Lamarr Houston that the Bears’ No. 1 need is for a rush linebacker in free agency or the draft.
His exact future as a Bear is yet to become fully apparent, but the veteran outside linebacker, who led the Bears with eight sacks in part-time duty during 2015, doesn’t share the prevailing sentiment that the Bears’ primary need is for an edge pass rusher.
Given that he delivered eight sacks, Pernell McPhee six and Willie Young 6.5, all playing less than full time in 2015, “I think that Pernell, Willie and myself are all great guys and great pass rushers, and we brought a lot to the team last year,” Houston said on Wednesday during an appearance on Sports Talk Live.
“I couldn’t say that they wouldn’t go draft an outside linebacker or bring somebody else in. But as of right now I don’t see what the need would be for one because we’re very productive guys.”
Whether productive enough in the mind’s eye of general manager Ryan Pace, coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will be reflected in the Bears’ moves beginning with free agency March 9 and on into the draft April 28 through April 30.
Houston rebounded from an injury-shortened 2014 to lead the rush-challenged Bears with his career-high eight sacks. He has played 16 games in five of his six NFL seasons.
[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]
The problem is that Houston is due a total of $6 million for 2016, the second year of the five-year contract for $35 million he signed after four years as an Oakland Raider.
Houston was part of a defensive makeover by then-GM Phil Emery in 2014 when he signed defensive ends Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young to replace Julius Peppers, released and then signed by Green Bay, and Shea McClellin, miscast as a defensive end for two years and then shifted to linebacker.
The 2014 season was a disaster for Houston, who started the first eight games. He went seven without a sack and then tore knee ligaments when he landed awkwardly doing a celebratory leap after a garbage-time sack of quarterback Jimmy Garappolo late in a blowout loss to the New England Patriots.
“I was able to make a lot of progress (in 2015),” Houston said. “Unfortunately my first season I didn’t get to finish, and I don’t think fans got a feeling for what kind of player I am. This year being able to play a full season, I wanted to make sure fans knew what type of player I am and what I bring to the game, the passion I have for the game.”
Houston underwent surgery and went through an intensive rehab process that left him sidelined through most of the Bears’ offseason pre-camp practice sessions. He began his comeback with 21 snaps played in the second preseason game and worked into the lineup as a situational linebacker as the season progressed, ultimately starting the final two games.
Houston collected seven sacks over the Bears’ final nine games.