Free Agent Fix: Albert or Julius?

The Chicago Bears need to be aggressive in free agency, although we don't know which positions Jerry Angelo will target just yet. Would this team be better off inking Albert Haynesworth or Julius Peppers? Both are great players, but Bear Report does some digging to see who fits best.

Albert Haynesworth

The Skinny: Arguably the best defensive tackle in the game right now, he was on the short list for MVP of the league at the season's midpoint before slowing down the last month or so because of injury. Haynesworth still finished fourth in the balloting for Defensive Player of the Year, as he recorded 51 total tackles, 8.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles in 2008. At 6-6 and 320 pounds, he is an immovable force in the middle and may be the most coveted free agent on the entire market.


DT Albert Haynesworth
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Pros: If he lined up next to a completely healthy Tommie Harris, the Bears would instantly have the scariest pair of tackles in the league. Dusty Dvoracek has ended all three of his seasons as a pro on injured reserve and Anthony Adams is a limited player, but Haynesworth is a monster and would create all kinds of one-on-one matchups for the rest of his defensive line mates.

The Cons: He has always had a bit of an attitude problem and was suspended by the league five games in 2006 for infamously stepping on the unprotected face of Cowboys center Andre Gurode. Haynesworth doesn't necessarily fit the mold of what Lovie Smith typically looks for in a defensive tackle, and he's never been a classic nose guard – that's what the Bears really need.

The Odds: It's hard to imagine the Bears affording him with all the money already committed on defense, but Haynesworth loved defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who left to become the head coach in Detroit, and might follow him out the door.

Julius Peppers

The Skinny: A much-celebrated specimen that was a good enough hoops prospect to play at North Carolina, he has been an elite pass rusher from the moment he was drafted second overall by the Panthers. After a curiously ineffective 2007 when he put together just 2.5 sacks, Peppers got back to Pro Bowl form in '08 with 14.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. Just a pure athlete at 6-7 and 283 pounds, he can play on either side of the defensive line and is also nimble enough to help out in coverage on zone-blitz packages.


DE Julius Peppers
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Pros: The Bears are desperate for a difference maker off the edge because neither Alex Brown nor Adewale Ogunleye strikes fear into the hearts of enemy blockers, but this guy really does. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich was forced to blitz more this past season than he would have liked because of poor pressure up front, so the addition of Peppers would help the D get back to its Cover 2 roots.

The Cons: While Peppers is on record saying he'd like to move on from Carolina and get a fresh start somewhere else, it remains to be seen if his 2008 was just a classic "contract year" performance. He was fantastic this season at right end but terrible last season at left end, so bringing him in would most likely mean a switch of positions for Brown – not to mention Ogunleye ending up on the cutting room floor.

The Odds: Peppers would seem to be a good fit in Chicago since he can stay at right end in a 4-3 system, but, like Haynesworth, he'll cost a fortune and might drive the team into salary cap hell.

The Verdict

To say the least, strong cases can be made for both players since they are among the very best in football at their respective positions.

Haynesworth's presence would lighten the load on Harris and potentially open up some blitzing lanes in the middle, but the two of them may not play to each other's strengths very well. Peppers would give this team the edge rusher it obviously lacked in 2008, although he's not a great run defender and isn't very instinctual when it comes to recognizing blocking schemes.

While both of them are longshots at best because of the financial commitments that must be made, Peppers makes more sense because he fills the most immediate need on the defensive side of the ball.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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