Updated: March 27, 2014 6:13PM
ORLANDO, Fla. — When it comes to defensive end Lamarr Houston, Raiders coach Dennis Allen knows what he’s losing and the Bears are gaining.
Allen explained why the win-starved Raiders would say farewell to an emerging, versatile 26-year-old talent.
“Yeah, he was a guy we would have liked to have been able to retain,” Allen said Tuesday during the AFC coaches breakfast at the NFL owners meetings. “But, obviously, there’s a business aspect to the National Football League. Just because you want to retain somebody doesn’t mean that, from a business standpoint, it’s going to work.”
Houston was signed to a five-year, $35 million deal ($14.9 million guaranteed) by the Bears to be a cornerstone of their defensive rebuilding. Houston’s production and overall effort will be closely monitored with Julius Peppers wearing the green and gold of the Packers and Shea McClellin competing at linebacker.
What exactly are the Bears getting in Houston?
“They’re getting a guy who is going to play a bunch of snaps, and he’s going to give them everything he’s got,” Allen said.
“He’s a high-effort player. He plays really hard. He plays powerful. He plays the run and pass equally well.”
The Bears have quickly morphed into an offensive team under coach Marc Trestman, but fixing the defense that gave up nearly 400 yards a game in 2013 remains the top offseason priority.
As expected, general manager Phil Emery was proactive in free agency, signing Houston, defensive end Willie Young, safeties Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings and a handful of others who will compete for roster spots. Re-signing cornerback Charles Tillman to a one-year deal was critical.
The hope is that the Bears can land one or two players in the draft in May who can compete for starting spots, too, much like guard Kyle Long and offensive tackle Jordan Mills were able to do last season.
Being an offensive-oriented team might seem foreign after nearly a decade under former coach Lovie Smith, but Bears chairman George McCaskey has no issue with it and expects the defense to regroup.
“When the Monsters of the Midway were born, it was the innovative offense with the T-formation and the man in motion,” McCaskey said. “It was a very dynamic offense that couldn’t be stopped.
“But we want to get the defense back to a Chicago Bears brand of football, and we think it’s going to happen.”
It will be a process under defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and his revamped staff, but McCaskey and team president Ted Phillips fully support the plan Emery and Trestman have in place, which includes re-signing Jay Cutler to his lucrative deal.
“All of the free-agency decisions are made by Phil and Marc with Ted’s and my support,” McCaskey said.
“I have all the faith in the world in the plan that Phil and Marc have put together,” Phillips said. “We’re excited about the season and what we have done so far in free agency, including Jay.”
And including Houston, who had a career-best six sacks last season. When asked about losing Houston, Allen quickly pointed to the Raiders’ signings of defensive ends Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith and linebacker Lamarr Woodley.
“We lost a good young player,” Allen said. “I think anytime you lose young talent, that hurts you. But it was a situation where Lamarr thought it was a good situation for him, and he decided to move on, and we’ve got to move on from it.”