The Bears’ top in-house free agent, Stephen Paea, is heading to the Redskins, getting a four-year deal worth a reported $15 million guaranteed.
The move is hardly surprising for the Bears, who are switching defensive schemes and have new regime that did not draft the former Oregon State star.
The defensive tackle suspected the odds of returning were slim after the Bears selected two defensive tackles — Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton — in last year’s draft.
For Paea, it’s a reward for the best — and best-timed — season of his career. He was probably the best player on a beleaguered defense last season, recording a career-high six sacks.
Paea had expressed some optimism for staying in Chicago before coach Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery were fired, but knew he had a decision to make. Near the season’s end, he said a contract was “always on my mind.”
“The team is going to do what is good for the team,” he said then. “And whoever (else) is after me …. Whoever loves me, takes me under their wing or whatever, offers me a nice contract.”