The Chicago Bears are gearing up for a major run at Julius Peppers, a league source said Tuesday, and Aaron Kampman also is an option for a team that's intent on landing a pass-rushing defensive end this offseason.
Peppers, who will not receive the Carolina Panthers' franchise tag, is the Bears' prime target. However, Peppers will not come cheap -- he was seeking around $40 million guaranteed from the Panthers. The Bears traditionally are a frugal team, but in this limited free-agent market, they are prepared to jump into the sweepstakes for Peppers, who had 81 sacks in eight seasons with the Panthers.
Kampman, who struggled to switch from end to linebacker in the Green Bay Packers' new 3-4 defense, also is someone the Bears are high on, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. The Bears know Kampman well from their intense NFC North rivalry games against the Packers.
Chicago's defense ranked 17th in the NFL last season, and coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo need improvement to ease questions about their job security. After mulling whether or not to part with higher-priced defensive veterans such as linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs and tackle Tommie Harris, Bears management has decided to keep that core together and try to add playmakers through free agency.
Pass-rushing end Gaines Adams passed away last month, and Adewale Ogunleye is unlikely to return, according to a source. The Bears plan to make Mark Anderson the starter at left defensive end, with Israel Idonije providing competition, but the team still needs impact players at the position.