Bears remain work in progress, issues still need to be addressed

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The Chicago Bears are not done with their overhaul.

General manager Phil Emery said big issues still need to be addressed after a flurry of moves this week that included luring defensive end Lamarr Houston from the Oakland Raiders and releasing eight-time Pro Bowler Julius Peppers.

"We've got a lot of work to do on our roster," Emery said Wednesday. "I want our fans to know the work's not going to stop. We just consider these signings a step."

The Bears agreed to a five-year contract with Houston, a two-year deal with former Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants safety Ryan Mundy and one-year contracts with linebackers Jordan Senn and D.J. Williams while releasing Peppers on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they brought in former Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings on a one-year deal.

The Bears still have plenty to do, particularly on a defense that ranked among the league's worst a year ago as Chicago missed the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.

The Bears could still use help on the defensive line and in the secondary. Defensive tackle Henry Melton and cornerback Charles Tillman remain unsigned.

Backup quarterback is a question, too, with Josh McCown agreeing to a two-year contract with Tampa Bay and reuniting with former Bears coach Lovie Smith. That leaves the Bears with the re-signed Jordan Palmer behind Jay Cutler, at least for now, although Emery said they will try out potential veteran backups and might add a QB in the draft.

He also did not dismiss the possibility of going after a high profile defensive end on the market such as Jared Allen or even bringing back Peppers at a low rate, although he did not sound optimistic about that.

"We're going to look at a number of players. Obviously, Jared is one of those," Emery said.

But he also said the Bears "will wait and see" what price the market sets for players such as Allen.

As for Peppers returning, Emery said, "We're always open to getting better at every level of our team and our roster so any player including Julius, if they want to have an opportunity to come back and we can provide that opportunity, meaning we have the cap space, we're always open to it."

What they've done so far is a start, at least.

The 26-year-old Houston gives them a young and versatile lineman who could be used on the right or left side and play inside as well. He started all 16 games last season for Oakland and was one of the few playmakers on a 4-12 team. He led the Raiders with a career-high six sacks and recorded 16 in four seasons with them, and although he's new, he also has some connections with his new team.

Houston played with Melton at Texas, trained with guard Kyle Long last summer and played high school basketball against offensive lineman Matt Slauson in Colorado. And he made it clear: He hopes Melton stays.

"I'm doing everything I can to convince him to stay here with me and put in work," Houston said. "We'll see how that turns out for him and I wish him nothing but the best."

The arrival of Mundy could signal the end for Major Wright in Chicago, particularly since Mundy is getting his number — 21.

Mundy, who made nine starts with the Giants last season after spending his first four behind Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu in Pittsburgh, is expected to compete for a starting spot in Chicago.

"I feel like I'm coming in here to compete for a starting opportunity, and that's all I can ask for," Mundy said. "I don't shy away from competition."



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