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Bears sign DE Young, WR Hixon

When Bears general manager Phil Emery told reporters Wednesday that the team was not done bolstering its roster in free agency, he wasn't kidding.

On Thursday, the Bears signed former Lions defensive end Willie Young to a three-year contract and former Broncos, Giants and Panthers receiver Domenik Hixon to a one-year deal.


Defensive end Willie Young tackles Packers quarterback Matt Flynn last season in Detroit.
Emery has now added six unrestricted free agents from other NFL teams in the first 48 hours of free agency, with Young and Hixon following defensive end Lamarr Houston (Raiders), safety Ryan Mundy (Giants) and linebacker Jordan Senn (Panthers) Tuesday and safety M.D. Jennings (Packers) Wednesday.

"When we went into free agency, we felt that if we could find a way to get two starting defensive linemen, we would have made forward progress," Emery said during a conference call Thursday. "We've been able to accomplish that [with defensive ends Houston and Young]."

Young spent the past four seasons with the Lions, recording 72 tackles, six sacks, 11 tackles-for-loss, seven pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. The 6-4, 251-pounder started for the first time last season, opening 15 of 16 games and establishing career highs with 47 tackles, three sacks, seven tackles-for-loss, five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.

"Our goal and our thoughts about defensive players is to get the toughest, most aggressive, instinctive players that have a little bit of an old-school mentality, a Bear mentality," Emery said. "And we certainly feel that Willie has those attributes and we're excited about him being here."

Young was selected by the Lions in the seventh round of the 2010 draft out of North Carolina State. The 28-year-old grew up in Riviera Beach, Fla, the same hometown as Devin Hester.

Hixon joins the Bears after eight seasons with the Broncos (2006-07), Giants (2007-12) and Panthers (2013). He has caught 109 passes for 1,460 yards and seven touchdowns, and averaged 24.6 yards with one TD on 80 kickoff returns and 10.7 yards with one TD on 56 punt returns.  

Hixon was selected by the Broncos in the fourth round of the 2006 draft out of Akron. In the same draft, Denver chose quarterback Jay Cutler in the first round (11th overall) and receiver Brandon Marshall in the fourth round (119th), 11 slots ahead of Hixon.

After appearing in the first four games of the 2007 season with Denver as a reserve, Hixon was released by the Broncos. The 6-2, 205-pounder was quickly signed by the Giants and concluded the season by winning the first of two Super Bowls with New York.

Hixon's most productive season was in 2008 when he played in all 16 games for the only time in his career (with seven starts) and caught 43 passes for 596 yards and two touchdowns.

Last season with the Panthers, Hixon had just seven receptions for 55 yards in 15 games. But his only touchdown, a 14-yarder, enabled Carolina to clinch its first playoff berth since 2008. It came with :23 left in a crucial Week 16 game against the Saints, giving the Panthers a 17-13 victory.

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