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Bears free-agency preview: Defensive ends

Bears position-by-position previews heading into free agency: Defensive ends.

Part of a position-by-position preview of where the Bears stand entering free agency on Tuesday.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

Signed for 2015: Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, David Bass, Cornelius Washington, Austen Lane, Jamil Merrell.

Expiring contracts: Trevor Scott.

Top-shelf free agents: Jerry Hughes, Jason Pierre-Paul, Greg Hardy.

Possible bargains: Adrian Clayborn, Darryl Tapp, Alan Branch, Jabaal Sheard, Cory Redding.

Position synopsis: After spending big at the position in free agency a year ago to land Allen, Houston and Young, the Bears aren’t likely to invest much m ore this year. A conversion to a 3-4 defense only complicates matters. Fox asserted at the combine last month that he will start with Allen, Houston and Young all slotting into roles as outside linebackers in the new system. But it remains to be seen just how easily each of the three players will adapt. As the Bears plan for their future, finding ways to develop Bass and Washington may be key.

Worth asking: How quickly will Houston and Young be back in the fold?

Both players experienced season-ending injuries last season with Houston sidelined by a torn ACL in October and Young lost two months later with a torn Achilles tendon. The rehab process will prevent both players from being on the field when the team begins a voluntary minicamp under the new coaching staff in late April. So that will only heighten the difficulty of the evaluation process for both Fox and Pace. There’s a belief within the organization that Houston has the skill set to be a natural fit at outside linebacker. The conversion for Young, who had a career-best 10 sacks in 2014, may be much more of a project.

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