The decision for defensive lineman Stephen Paea came down to this: The Redskins wanted him to help their pass rush. After finally getting that chance with Chicago last season, Paea welcomed the chance to continue in that role.
Paea finally got a chance to play inside for the Bears last season and he responded with six sacks. With Washington, he said he’ll play end in the Redskins’ base 3-4 front and move inside on passing downs. Paea agreed to a four-year deal worth up to $21 million with $15 million guaranteed.
With the Bears, he often played over the nose in their four-man front – or shaded to one side of the center. But he often came off the field on pass downs until last season.
Paea said he was being wooed by Dallas, Detroit, Denver and, in a late push, Tampa Bay.
“Other teams were offering me a little bit more, but the way Washington would use me in their defense was the reason I chose Washington,” he said. “But whatever they feel that I would fit best, they’ll put me in there. I’m there to help, not only playing the
run but the pass. I’m all for that.”
Chicago selected him in the second round of the 2011 draft, but is letting him walk in part because the Bears switched to a 3-4 – but they are not expected to run the same style as Washington. The Redskins will use more of a one-gap penetrating system as opposed to a two-gap as they have in the past, when ends had to hold up blockers. Now they’ll be able to get upfield. That fits with Paea’s strength.
Paea also said a big difference last year, “This past year was the first year they put me in the nickel pass rush and I got to play three technique and on third down.”
He said another difference was working with martial arts coach Joe Kim, now in Atlanta. Paea said Kim, who had worked with Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Dontari Poe in Kansas City, changed his career. The Bears hired Kim last offseason.
“The stuff I learned from him was part of the reason why I got successful,” Paea said. “Learning better footwork and better hands and getting after the quarterback. It’s all footwork. We’d do it every day over and over again. I learned it in April last year and it took me a while to get used to it, but when I hit camp and preseason I got used to it more. Even now I’m doing it in the offseason and getting better and better.”
Now he wants to take those skills to Washington, which is desperate for an interior rush. The Redskins added Jason Hatcher last season to help provide more push and he might have done so if not for dealing with a nagging knee injury. When healthy, Hatcher could provide a push. If that happens, it can only help the Redskins outside linebackers. They haven’t had anyone consistently collapse the pocket for several seasons, making their jobs tougher.
Paea hopes the attention paid to those around him results in one-on-one rushes. When playing over the nose, he was used to double teams.
“If I get one-on-one on first and second down I feel I can do some damage and get in the backfield,” he said, “versus playing nose like I did here in Chicago.”