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Ngakoue signing with Bears on 1-year deal

Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue is signing with the Chicago Bears on a one-year, $10.5 million deal, a league source confirmed to The Athletic on Thursday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The 28-year-old started 15 games last season in Indianapolis, totaling 9 1/2 sacks with 29 tackles (18 solo).
  • Ngakoue, drafted in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft by Jacksonville, has played for the Jaguars, Vikings, Ravens, Raiders and Colts. He earned a Pro Bowl spot in 2017.
  • The Bears were last in the NFL last season in both sacks (22) and QB pressures (172).
  • Indianapolis hosts Chicago for a joint practice Aug. 16 before squaring off in their second preseason game Aug. 19 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

What Ngakoue brings to the Bears

The Bears had the worst pass rush in football in 2022. A safety, Jaquan Brisker, led them with four sacks. Their defensive ends in ’22 combined for 6 1/2 sacks.

Enter Ngakoue, who gives Chicago an immediate upgrade off the edge to help impact opposing quarterbacks.

Ngakoue had 10 sacks for the Raiders in 2021, when he played for current Bears defensive line coach Travis Smith. Last season, he was with the Indianapolis Colts, and while Matt Eberflus wasn’t there, the Bears certainly could do their research with all the connections they have in Indianapolis. That includes Smith’s dad, Richard, who is the Colts’ linebackers coach/run game coordinator.

Those are important connections for the Bears, as they likely wanted to understand why this will be Ngakoue’s fifth team since 2020.

Expect Ngakoue to start for the Bears at defensive end opposite free-agent addition DeMarcus Walker. He’s an immediate upgrade for a group that also included Rasheem Green, a veteran on a one-year deal, and Dominique Robinson and Trevis Gipson.

As the team with the most cap space in football, the Bears could easily handle this contract, and they also need to keep spending to reach the league’s cash minimum. — Fishbain

What will Chicago’s defense look like this season?

The topic of adding a pass rusher has come up often since the Bears opened training camp at Halas Hall. It started when coach Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles sat down with the media last week.

Poles hinted that a move could be made for the right player on the right deal.

“If it’s a defensive end or any position that we think can enhance our team, we’re going to stay after them and stay engaged and see if we can improve our team that way,” he said.

It took him a week but Poles delivered.

Much has been made about the Bears’ new-look offense around quarterback Justin Fields. But with Ngakoue added, the defense will look vastly different for Eberflus, too. Ngakoue is another big name to go along with linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, who were also signed in free agency.

The Bears’ defense could feature as many as six new starters, including three up front with Ngakoue, defense end Walker and defensive tackle Andrew Billings. — Jahns

Ngakoue’s lone season with Colts

Ngakoue ended his lone season in Indianapolis on the injured reserve due to a throat injury and missed the last two games, but he still became one of only seven players in NFL history to record at least eight sacks in each of their first seven seasons.

The other six are: Hall of Famers DeMarcus Ware, Derrick Thomas and Reggie White, future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald, former Defensive Rookie of the Year Al Baker and Super Bowl champ Cedrick Hardman.

Despite Ngakoue’s steadiness at piling up sacks, his lack of overall impact as a pass rusher and inconsistency as a run stopper were likely the reasons the Colts did not seek to retain him in free agency. However, reuniting with a familiar face like Smith could help Chicago maximize his skill set.

“I just try to not fall off,” Ngakoue told The Athletic last season. “The greats don’t fall off.” — Boyd

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(Photo: Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

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