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updated: 3/12/2014 7:46 PM

Roaring start ... but can Houston help Bears slaughter competition?

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  • Bears defensive end Lamarr Houston smiles after being introduced as the newest member of the team during a news conference Wednesday, March 12, 2014, in Lake Forest, ill.

      Bears defensive end Lamarr Houston smiles after being introduced as the newest member of the team during a news conference Wednesday, March 12, 2014, in Lake Forest, ill.
    Associated Press

 
 

NFL free agency is like the month of March: New players enter like lions and old players exit like lambs.

The league just keeps churning and for the Bears' defensive line that means Lamarr Houston is introduced at a news conference.

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Meanwhile, Julius Peppers is thanked for his service in an email issued by the team.

Are the Bears better for the exchange of alleged pass rushers?

You're going to have to tell me because when the free-agency bell rang Tuesday, I didn't know Lamarr Houston from Anthony Amarillo.

Yet the guy must be good because everyone associated with the Bears was so excited at Halas Hall on Wednesday.

Bears' general manager Phil Emery was excited about the arrival of Houston, new safety Ryan Mundy and a couple more additions.

"The Monsters of the Midway are back," Houston said.

Excitedly, of course.

At 31 other team facilities around the NFL, similar excitement burst through the walls.

The question that remains nationally is how it's possible for every team in the league to win the Super Bowl next season.

The question that remains locally is whether it'll turn out that the Bears' new players will become champions or simply bodies to fill out a roster.

Heck, four years ago then-GM Jerry Angelo signed one of the biggest free agents available.

Julius Peppers was the prize catch. Everyone knew his name and his game. This was an all-pro caliber player that could put a team over the top.

Four years later, Peppers leaves town after personal production that was more good than great and team production that included one postseason berth and a lone playoff victory.

Peppers' contract was for six years and $84 million with $42.5 million guaranteed. Now the Chicago stop on his career tour is history due to that contract, diminishing returns and salary cap considerations.

Most memorable about Peppers with the Bears was that he was a professional on the field and created no drama off it.

So it's time for the NFL to churn again: Get out of the way, old lamb, and make room for a young lion.

This time around the Bears shopped for pass-rushing help at -- relatively speaking -- Dollar Tree instead of Tiffany's.

Houston came at the much more affordable rate of five years, $35 million -- $15 million of which is guaranteed.

That's for a guy who compiled 16 sacks during his four seasons with the Raiders compared to Peppers' 38 sacks during that same period with the Bears.

So is Emery's team better with Houston than Peppers? He must think so, as giddy as he was Wednesday.

Maybe the Bears will enjoy the best of both worlds. They have Houston and there's always a chance that out of desperation Peppers will sign at a discount.

Emery didn't sound like that's going to happen, however, sort of talking around the subject in an anything's-possible manner.

The Bears are moving on, trying to get better and younger all at once like they have tried to do so often in the past.

This is Emery's team now and what happens during this cycle depends on what it always does in sports: Talent evaluation.

The Bears' GM, who has been all over the board in that regard, needs one big class of reinforcements for the Bears to be serious contenders this year.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Emery conceded. "It's a very fluid process."

Good for Phil Emery if this week was a start in the direction toward a championship.

If it wasn't, well, he'll have to go out again next year in search of some new lions to replace the old lambs.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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