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Bears didn’t sign Shea McClellin, but they believe in him

Shea McClellin signed with the Patriots. (AP)

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Bears coach John Fox believes the Patriots are getting a young player on the rise in linebacker Shea McClellin.

So why didn’t the Bears re-sign their 2012 first-round pick?

“It’s not like we didn’t want Shea McClellin,” Fox said Wednesday during the NFL owners meetings. “There’s the way it fits, there’s number problems. Shea is probably an arrow-up guy.”

General manager Ryan Pace said McClellin was on the Bears’ free-agency board. But he ranked behind other priorities and players.

When the Bears signed linebacker Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, McClellin’s run with the Bears ended. The Patriots signed McClellin to a three-year deal worth $3.5 million guaranteed. He also met with the Jets and Seahawks.

“It was just kind of where his market went and what we knew we could get possibly with some other players,” Pace said.

Fox said McClellin fits the mold that Patriots coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia typically look for at linebacker. McClellin settled into inside linebacker for the Bears, but can play outside, too.

“Historically, Bill and Matt up in New England, they like those guys that can play both,” Fox said. “It can confuse at times the opponent.

“[McClellin is] a smart tough guy; he’s young. As we signed those other two, we kind of ran out of room. But whether it’s Martellus [Bennett], Matt Forte or any guys you’ve coached, you wish them nothing but the best. Sometimes it’s good for guys to have a change.”

And change could be good for McClellin, who was scrutinized in Chicago.

After struggling to find a position his first three seasons, McClellin often said he comfortable at inside linebacker in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense. He made the defensive calls and finished with 96 tackles.

Fangio was McClellin’s considered strongest supporter at Halas Hall, but Fox also sees good things ahead for him.

“I saw growth,” Fox said, “and I honestly think his arrow is up.”

Martellus matters

Coach John Fox was asked if he liked the personality of tight end Martellus Bennett, who was traded to the Patriots.

“Oh, he’s got personality,” Fox said, laughing. “He’s a nice young man. He’s got an interesting personality for sure — and not one that is malicious or bad. He’s a great kid.”

Wait and see

The Bears’ decision to sign tight end Josh Hill, a Saints restricted free agent, to an offer sheet was in line with their other free-agent moves. The Saints have three days to match the Bears’ three-year deal.

“[He’s] long, young, obviously familiarity with our coaches,” Fox said. “[Tight ends coach] Frank Smith knows him. [General manager] Ryan Pace knows him. Now we just have to wait and see what New Orleans does.”

Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com