General manager Ryan Poles finally made his move Thursday when the Bears agreed to a one-year, $10.5 million contract with free-agent edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Chicago. ESPN's Adam Schefter was the first to report the move and Ngakoue appeared to confirm the move himself by tweeting a bear emoji after the news broke.
The Ngakoue signing is an important move by a Bears team that had money to spend and a severe need to add juice and teeth to their pass rush.
Last season, Bears defensive ends notched just 6.5 sacks in 17 games. Safety Jaquan Brisker led the team with four.
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Ngakoue, meanwhile, recorded 9.5 sacks for the Indianapolis Colts and has registered at least eight sacks in every season of his seven-year career. He's one of five players in NFL history to achieve that feat. Since entering the NFL in 2016, Ngakoue has 65 sacks. That number trails only Aaron Donald, T.J. Watt, Cameron Jordan, Myles Garrett, Chandler Jones, and Khalil Mack during that timeframe.
The Bears signed defensive end DeMarcus Walker this offseason, but that was never going to be enough. They desperately need someone they can rely on to put his hand in the dirt and get after the quarterback on a consistent basis -- someone who can put the opposing offense behind the sticks or put a stake in their heart on third down.
That Walker left Tuesday's practice early with an injury and didn't participate Wednesday only added to the Bears' need for another veteran edge rusher.
Ngakoue is a poor run defender. That, along with his initial desire for a multi-year deal, is probably why he remained a free agent until Aug. 3.
There's no doubt the Bears will have done their homework on Ngakoue. While he didn't play for head coach Matt Eberflus in Indianapolis, the Bears' regime still has deep connections with some remaining in Indy. Ngakoue also played for Bears defensive line coach Travis Smith while with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021.
Poles is playing the long game with this rebuild. Taking the Bears from the NFL cellar to perennial contention will take a multi-year, multi-pronged approach. He has been disciplined in his spending.
But this is a deal that had to get done. The Bears couldn't walk into the 2023 season with Trevis Gipson, Dominique Robinson, Rasheem Green, and Terrell Lewis as their pass-rush options not named Walker.
Ngakoue isn't a superstar. His arrival shouldn't be overblown. But this signing was one the Bears desperately had to make. Poles was patient, waited Ngakoue out, and secured him at the number he wanted.
With Ngakoue on the edge, the Bears' defensive front looks different. It's not going to win any beauty contests, but it should have more of an edge and give the Bears' defense a fighting chance on passing downs -- something it didn't have last season.
Not every move guarantees a Super Bowl. Ngakoue arriving doesn't accelerate the lengthy rebuild. But it's a move that will help the Bears be better on the field in 2023, and that could pay dividends in the long run as well.