WEDNESDAY, 11:36am: The Bears have officially announced their five-year deal with McPhee (via Twitter).
MONDAY, 8:22am: A year after adding veteran defensive ends Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen in free agency, the Bears are making another big splash on the open market in the hopes of improving their pass rush. According to Aaron Leming of BearReport.com (via Twitter), the team is in agreement on a five-year contract with Pernell McPhee that will be worth just under $40MM. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun has since confirmed the deal, adding that it includes nearly $16MM in guaranteed money.
McPhee, 26, has seen his stock rise since he was drafted by the Ravens in the fifth round back in 2011. Although he only started six total regular season contests in Baltimore over the course of his rookie contract, McPhee developed into one of the league’s most dangerous pass rushers.
According to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required), the Mississippi State product racked up an impressive 64 total quarterback pressures – including 21 QB hits – in just 540 defensive snaps last season. PFF ranked McPhee second among all 3-4 outside linebackers, behind only NFL sack leader Justin Houston.
When I identified my top 50 free agents over the weekend, I listed McPhee eighth overall, suggesting that he could be this year’s Everson Griffen, who inked a five-year, $42.5MM deal last March as he made the transition from being a part-time contributor to his team’s primary pass rusher. McPhee’s deal looks like it’ll be in the same neighborhood as Griffen’s, and I’d expect the Bears intend to use him in a much larger role than the Ravens did.
The Colts had been viewed as a possible suitor for McPhee, given the Chuck Pagano connection and the team’s need for a pass rusher. Wilson tweets that Washington was also among the several teams that had interest in the four-year veteran. However, according to Wilson (via Twitter), McPhee was interested in playing for new Bears head coach John Fox, and was impressed by the Bears’ plans for him as a pass rusher.
With Vic Fangio taking over as defensive coordinator on Fox’s staff in Chicago, the Bears are transitioning from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme, so McPhee should fit comfortably. Players like Houston and Allen make far more sense as 4-3 defensive ends than 3-4 outside linebackers, so the position was one the Bears needed to address this offseason. It’ll be interesting to see what other moves the team makes to accommodate Fangio’s system, and how the carryover players adjust to the new defense.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.