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Most Bears fans won’t be sad to see Pernell “McKnee” moving on to greener pastures, as his constant injury problems held him back from ever living up to the contract Ryan Pace gave him. Most Bears fans will remind you that he never even played a full season for Chicago and will say they’re glad to see him go. However, most Bears fans will also forget how he had sneaky good production in his limited action on the field, production they will sorely miss next season.

Coming off a career year with the Ravens and stacking up 7.5 sacks in a reserve role, McPhee looked like a great signing in Pace’s first season with the Bears. A 26-year-old tackling machine with a nasty streak made it look like Pace had already started bringing the monsters back to the midway just one year removed from having the league’s 31st ranked defense. The fact that he had a Superbowl ring on his finger only added to his pedigree, and Bears fans everywhere were already getting excited about this rebuild. While he was never the dominant force many hoped he would be, he quietly provided a solid edge rushing presence when he was on the field. In 3 years he posted 16 sacks, which certainly isn’t what you hope for when signing a guy to a $35 million contract, but it’s also nothing to turn your nose up at. His sack totals were never that eye-opening, but he made up for his lack of sacks in other areas. According to Power Football Focus, in 2015 he had the 3rd highest pass-rush-productivity rating the site had ever recorded. He didn’t always finish the play, but he almost always impacted it, and in that same season he posted an impressive 48 quarterback hurries. Perhaps even more importantly, McPhee served as the perfect bookend to former 1st round pick Leonard Floyd. His violent and powerful bull rush would often overwhelm his competition, and this raw aggression appeared to be the ideal complement to Floyd’s speed.

Fast forward to February 2018 and McPhee found himself unemployed, eventually taking a one-year $1.8 million deal from Washington with just $350,000 in guarantees. While he might not have been worth the $15 million he was due in the last 2 years of his Bears contract, one could argue that a renegotiation might have served both sides well. Instead, the Bears let him walk and they now face going into next season with one of the most unproven pass-rushing rooms in the league. A lot of McPhee’s value to the team was in the intangibles, as his leadership and fit opposite of Floyd will be tough to replace. He was also the 2016 recipient of the team’s Ed Block Courage Award, which was no small matter in and of itself. More importantly though, the Bears are going to miss a proven pass rusher who—even if situationally—could have helped the team in 2018.

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