“This is a player we targeted right from the onset,” GM Ryan Pace said. “He is a highly productive, disruptive and versatile defender. This guy not only brings the top physical talent but also the right mentality and makeup to improve our football team.”
McPhee (6-3, 285) registered 7.5 sacks last season in a part-time role behind Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs. When asked to provide a scouting report on his playing style, McPhee responded: “I’m violent. That’s all you need is to be violent.”
Baltimore lined up McPhee at multiple spots along their front seven, including outside linebacker, inside linebacker and defensive end.
“We see him as a base 3-4 outside linebacker that can play inside in sub packages and brings a lot of versatility,” said Pace.
For his part, McPhee doesn’t care where he lines up.
“It don’t matter. Wherever coach wants to line me up,” he said. “Two-point, three-point, four-point, it don’t matter. Wherever coach needs me. If he needs me to go play cornerback, I’ll go play cornerback. It is just a blessing and it is an opportunity to show off guys like me can play any position in the front four.
"I played defensive end in the 4-3, I played defensive end in the 3-4 and I played outside linebacker in the 3-4. We practiced against the 49ers last year when I was with Baltimore and their defense was very similar to us, so I think the scheme will be easy for me to adjust to and I look forward to helping some of the guys who might have a harder time adjusting to it.”
McPhee is expected to be the centerpiece of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s pass rush.
“He's disruptive, he hits the quarterback a ton. I think he's an ascending player,” said Pace. “I like the violence that he plays with. He's got length, gets off blocks, I think he's a well-rounded player, too. I think he's a productive pass rusher but also a steady, consistent run defender. Those are some of the things that jump out.”
Often, 3-4 outside linebackers are asked to drop into coverage, particularly starters. It's an area in which McPhee admittedly has little experience.
“I’ve been through a lot of coverage. More in practice, though," McPhee said. "But I’m a pretty good athlete."
Multiple NFL teams were interested in McPhee, yet he said Chicago's long history of defensive success appealed greatly to him during the decision-making process.
“The defense. The tradition of the defense. I wanted to come and be a part of bringing that tradition back," he said. "You know, a hard-nosed playing defense, play with violence, play with an attitude, play with a swag. Just go out there and dominate the game.”
After a 6.0-sack season as a rookie in 2011, McPhee had multiple knee surgeries the following offseason. He said it took nearly two years to fully recover, which was the reason for his breakout campaign in 2014.
“I was healthy. That’s the key. That’s the key in this game. Stay hungry and healthy. That’s the key.”
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fifth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.