The Chicago Bears’ defensive line will have one new starter in 2017.
Defensive end Mitch Unrein and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have come to an agreement on a contract, according to Tampa Bay Times reporter Rick Stroud. NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport adds context with details of the deal, which is reportedly worth $10.5 million over three years with $4 million guaranteed.
Unrein started 21 of the 39 games he appeared in since joining the Bears in 2015, pushing his way up the depth chart and into a starting role as a defensive end in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense. He was in the midst of a breakout year of sorts as part of one of the best run-stuffing defensive lines in football before ending the season on injured reserve. Unrein earned the 14th best run defense grade over at Pro Football Focus for his efforts in 2017.
In Tampa Bay, Unrein will likely slide inside and play defensive tackle. That he has the ability to play outside will do wonders for the flexibility of the Buccaneers’ front four.
Unless the Bears dive into the free agent market for a replacement, Unrein’s departure should open up opportunities for Jonathan Bullard to take over at the position. Bullard was drafted in the third round (72nd overall) in 2016, but didn’t produce much as a rookie. A year later, Bullard put together a fine preseason, earned an expanded role as a reserve along the defensive line, and earned a respectable 75.8 overall grade from PFF.
The Bears aren’t hurting for defensive ends, but they’ll miss an underrated one with Unrein out the door.