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updated: 3/13/2014 8:01 PM

Bears sign ex-Lions defensive end Young

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  • Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler scrambles while chased by Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young last September. Young signed a three-year deal worth $9 million to play for the Bears.

      Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler scrambles while chased by Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young last September. Young signed a three-year deal worth $9 million to play for the Bears.
    Associated Press/file 2013

  • Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young (79), here celebrating a sack against the Chicago Bears in 2011, has signed with the Bears.

      Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young (79), here celebrating a sack against the Chicago Bears in 2011, has signed with the Bears.
    Associated Press/2011 file

  • Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young in the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

      Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young in the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

 
 

The Bears signed another unrestricted free-agent defensive end Thursday, but they still don't have the proven pass rusher they need after tying for last in the NFL with just 31 sacks in 2013.

Two days after acquiring former Oakland Raider Lamarr Houston, the Bears picked up ex-Lion Willie Young, who agreed to a three-year deal for $9 million that includes $3.95 million guaranteed this season in base salary with a $2 million signing bonus.

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Young's base salary for the following two seasons is $2.45 million.

The 6-foot-5, 251-pound Young had just 3 sacks last season in 15 starts on a star-studded Detroit defensive line that included Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ziggy Ansah. But Young was credited with 48 quarterback pressures and had 47 tackles.

Young, 28, had a total of 6 career sacks in four seasons with the Lions, who drafted him in the seventh round out of North Carolina State in 2010.

"This is a long football player," said Bears general manager Phil Emery. "He's got 35-inch arms. He uses that advantage to gain leverage and separation. He's got strong hands, a good punch. He's a good athlete with a lot of upside."

Emery spoke the previous day about having much work still to do in the transformation of a historically bad defense, and he believes Young helps the rebuilding process.

"It's another very positive step in the direction of improving our roster to the point where we can contend and win a championship," Emery said. "When we went into free agency we felt that if we could find a way to get two starting defensive linemen, we would have made forward progress. We've been able to accomplish that."

Emery said it's not yet necessary to decide which side of the D-line Houston and Young will play on because the roster is still in flux. But Young played 550 snaps last season at left end, 130 at right end and 45 at linebacker, where he either rushed from a two-point stance or dropped into coverage.

Houston played exclusively at right end last season, 180 snaps with his hand on the ground and just more than 700 standing up (two-point stance).

But in 2012, 649 of Houston's 865 snaps were at left end with his hand on the ground. Most of the rest of his snaps were at left end in a two-point stance, and he had about 50 snaps at tackle.

Young, who bided his time for three years playing behind veteran starters such as Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch, says it doesn't matter where he plays.

"I pride myself on being a very versatile player," said Young, who had a 38-inch vertical at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2010. "Since my first day in the league, I found myself bouncing around just trying to keep my head above the water. And obviously perseverance was my key. And, man, it came down to wherever I fit in.

"I had to make the most of my opportunities. That's how I did it, whether that required me dropping back into coverage or rushing the passer or stopping the run, I just made myself available for the team and whatever was needed."

Last year was Young's first as a starter, a wait that seemed interminable.

"Early on, it seemed like it was just taking forever for an opportunity to come around," he said. "But those (veteran) guys helped a young guy like me through it all. Definitely times got tough.

"I had a defensive coordinator like Gunther Cunningham who pushed my buttons day in and day out, but he said one thing: 'You're going to learn to love me.' Just the stuff that he put me through made me a tougher player than I was from the day I came into this league to this point now."

• Follow Bob's Bears and NFL reports on Twitter@BobLeGere.

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