In 2004, Adewale Ogunleye was coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he led the AFC with 15.0 sacks for the Dolphins. As a reward, Miami promptly traded him to the Chicago Bears for receiver Marty Booker.
Ogunleye immediately dipped to 5.0 sacks his first year in Chicago. He bounced back with 10.0 sacks in 2005 but never had more than 9.0 sacks for the Bears in any of his following four seasons. Ogunleye accumulated 42 sacks during his six years in the Windy City, or 7.0 per season.
While that wasn't the type of production the Bears were hoping for when they traded Booker – who also never matched his pre-trade numbers in Miami – 7.0 sacks per season is nothing to sneeze at.
Opposite Ogunleye for all six years was Alex Brown, who himself never had more than 7.0 sacks in a single campaign. Alongside Ogunleye, Brown averaged just less than 6.0 sacks per season.
While neither player was an individual standout between 2004-2009, the combined production of Brown and Ogunleye – roughly 13.0 sacks per season – was key in the Bears' defensive dominance during that span. Both were solid all-around players, while Brown was particularly adept at stopping the run.
Adewale Ogunleye & Alex Brown
The Bears parted ways with both players in 2010, opting instead to spend big on Julius Peppers, one of the most dominant pass rushers of his time. Peppers was released this week after four productive, albeit slightly disappointing, seasons in Chicago.
The Bears now turn to their two newest acquisitions, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, to bookend the defensive line. Both players were paid handsomely, despite just 9.0 sacks combined last season. Young will receive $3 million per season, which equates to $1 million per sack if he repeats his 3.0-sack performance from 2013. While Houston, due roughly $7 million per season, is coming off a career-high 6.0-sack season.
Houston (26) and Young (28) are relatively young and in the prime of their careers. The Bears are banking on both players taking a big step forward next year as pass rushers.
While each has the potential to increase his sack total in Chicago, it's unlikely they'll develop into a 20.0-sack-per-season tandem. In fact, both players are just as adept against the run as they are pressuring the quarterback.
This coincides with the off-season statements of head coach Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery, who have made fixing the run defense their top priority. Last season, for the first time in the 94-year history of the team, the Bears ranked dead last against the run. No one wants to go through that again, least of all Trestman and Emery, which is why they've invested heavily on two run-stopping defensive ends.
Houston and Young will be Chicago's starting defensive ends for at least the next three seasons. When it's all said and done, we may look back on their production in the same way we do Ogunleye and Brown, who maxed out at 16.0 combined sacks in 2005, yet never had less than 11.0 combined sacks in any campaign together. They were never dominant but the yearly consistency of Brown and Ogunleye had a lot of value.
Young and Houston could very easily max out at 16.0 combined sacks during their years together in Chicago but if they are solid against the run, as both have proven to be during their respective careers, they will have lived up to their contracts.
The Bears signed two young edge rushers with potential but expectations should be tempered for Houston and Young. They were signed for their positional versatility and their all-around skill sets, not because they're expected to post double-digit sacks every year.
As teammates, Ogunleye and Brown earned zero combined Pro Bowl appearances, yet Bears fans look back very fondly at their six years as Chicago's starting defensive ends. There's no reason Young and Houston can't leave the same legacy.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.