Prove it: Bears sign 3 defenders to 1-year deals
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PHOENIX — It’s time to prove it.
The Bears signed three veteran defensive players to one-year deals Tuesday, plugging three holes and, in theory, allowing the team to draft the best player available rather than for need next month.
But for the public backlash for signing former 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald — who was accused of domestic violence and sexual assault last season, but charged with neither — the moves come with little risk for the Bears.
Like McDonald, former Redskins defensive end Jarvis Jenkins and Buccaneers inside linebacker Mason Foster will come to Halas Hall with a one-year chance to up their earning power.
“There are a lot of good options right now on one-year deals with guys,” Bears GM Ryan Pace said Tuesday after signing the two defensive ends. “And we’re healthy enough with our cap where we can do it.
“I like guys motivated coming in on kind of prove-it contracts. I can say that. I think that’s good.”
Jenkins, 26, started 33 games the last three seasons for the Redskins, including 14 last season. He missed his rookie season with a torn ACL after being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft.
Jenkins could start opposite McDonald in the Bears’ new 3-4 defense, which requires ends to be stout run defenders.
Both have the size the Bears covet at the position; Jenkins is 6-4, 315 pounds, while McDonald is 6-3, 290 pounds.
A source confirmed the signing of Foster, also 26, who will compete for one of the team’s two starting inside linebacker positions. The former third-round pick started 54 games in four seasons with the Buccaneers, recording six sacks and 243 tackles.
He’ll have company at linebacker. Pace said the team could carry three more on the roster than the Bears did in their old 4-3 scheme.
“Eight to nine guys,” he said at the NFL Annual Meetings. “You need a lot of bodies there.”
The Seahawks have proven that there’s no such thing as too many pass rushers, Pace said. He wouldn’t rule out the Bears drafting an outside linebacker in the first round next month despite giving Pernell McPhee $16 million guaranteed in free agency.
“You think about, ‘This is a passing league now,’” he said. “So the best way to disrupt the passing game is to hit the QB. So the more pass rushers we can accumulate, the better we’re going to be.”
Outside linebackers Lamarr Houston and McPhee could line up at end, Pace said.
Jared Allen, whose contract is guaranteed, figures to play end in a nickel or dime set, though Pace said he’ll know more about him once practice begins. He acknowledged
Allen’s bout of pneumonia last season — and subsequent weight loss — might have factored into his performance.
“But it’s hard,” said Pace, who met Allen in person for the first time Monday. “When these players get older, it’s hard to know when they’re really reaching that point.”