LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- After months of wondering how general manager Ryan Poles would fill the Bears' glaring need for an edge rusher, Yannick Ngakoue finally arrived at Halas Hall on Friday.
Ngakoue, 28, was one of several veteran edge rushers who remained on the free-agent market at the start of summer, with Leonard Floyd, Frank Clark, Justin Houston, and Jadeveon Clowney among the other options.
Armed with the most cap space in the NFL, the Bears had their pick of the litter.
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In the end, Poles chose Ngakoue as the man who best fit what he and head coach Matt Eberflus are looking for in a pass rusher.
"I think he fits really well," Eberflus said Friday. "He was with [Rod] Marinelli in Vegas, which was cool, and [defensive line coach Travis Smith]. So he was in that same type of scheme there. He was with [Gus Bradley] last year — same type of scheme, four down in front. Getting vertical on the edges. So it’s really the same type. It’s not gonna be a stretch for him. He fits really well, so we’re excited about that.
"And we had some intel on him. Obviously, what kind of teammate he is. What kind of person he is. What kind of worker he is. And he checked all the boxes there for us. He’s gonna be a good addition."
Ngakoue has registered at least eight sacks in each season of his seven-year NFL career. Last season, Bears' defensive ends totaled 6.5 sacks. Safety Jaquan Brisker led the team with four sacks.
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.
Ngakoue's arrival immediately gives the Bears' pass rush some much-needed teeth. While Ngakoue is not known for his run defense, the Bears didn't give him $10 million to only play on third down.
"We see him as a first- and second-down, we see him as an every-down end, so he’s gonna have to play in those situations," Eberflus said. "And he’s done it. He’s been good at it, and we’ve got to make sure that he sharpens that part of it as well. And he will do that. And we’re excited where he is in terms of being an every-down defensive end for us."
Ngakoue and the Bears have been talking for some time. The veteran edge rusher initially wanted a multi-year deal, which was part of the reason for the lengthy negotiations.
The Bears view Ngakoue not only as a scheme fit but also as someone who will arrive and seamlessly blend into the H.I.T.S culture created by Eberflus and his staff.
"The way he practices, I guess he’s full tilt when he practices, and he keeps himself in great shape," Eberflus said. "He’s very mindful of his body and how he stays in great shape to be able to go hard like that. To be really good and effective in pass rushing, you’ve got to bring it, and you’ve got to bring it every single down. You can’t take a play off, and that takes being in great shape, and you’ve got to have that mentality."
Adding an edge rusher of Ngakoue's caliber will help make life easier for a back seven that is the strength of the Bears' rebuilt defense.
Safety Eddie Jackson feels a different energy on defense this season, and adding Ngakoue should only add fuel to that fire.
“It just more juice," Jackson said. "We just keep adding talent. We’re just going out there competing. We got this motto: ‘All we need is all we got. All we got is all we need.’ Just keep adding talent. Just continue to raise the competition level.”
Poles had to inject talent into his defensive front after a season in which the Bears' defensive line failed to breathe on opposing quarterbacks for large stretches of the season. A pass-rush mercenary with a history of wreaking havoc on opposing offenses was just what the doctor ordered for the 2023 Bears.
"It's getting scarier and scarier," Jackson said.