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ORLANDO – Jared Allen took a couple of extra days to make his next big career decision, and on Wednesday morning he pulled off one of the biggest surprises of the offseason when he agreed to a four-year contract with the Chicago Bears.

Allen, the star defensive end whose contract with the Minnesota Vikings expired after last season, had well-publicized free agents visits with the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks before winding up with the Bears on Wednesday morning.

"I'm excited," Allen wrote in a text message to USA TODAY Sports. "I have been blessed to (play) for some amazing franchise(s) and the Good Lord has blessed me again."

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Allen's move from Minnesota to Chicago is another major move within the NFC North after former Chicago defensive end Julius Peppers signed with the Green Bay Packers, and a sign the Bears are serious about upgraded their pass rush. The Bears finished 30th in total defense in 2013, with nearly 400 yards and 30 points allowed per game.

Even worse the Bears were tied for last in the league, with Jacksonville, with only 31 sacks.

Allen is the fourth defensive lineman signed by the Bears since free agency began, joining former Raider Lamarr Houston, and former Lions Willie Young and Israel Idonije (who spent nine years with Chicago before going to Detroit) earlier this month, and appear to be trying to put together a deep group of defenders that can each play a variety of roles along the defensive line.

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"We're very happy for Jared, and his wife Amy, and the Bears and we're really excited to have him in Chicago. We're looking forward to it," Bears chairman George McCaskey said after final session of the league's meetings adjourned Wednesday morning in Orlando. "Getting someone of Jared's talents, this is a big move."

The agreement came just minutes after NFC coaches, including Marc Trestman, concluded an hour-long interview session at the NFL's annual meetings in Orlando. Trestman was not available immediately for additional comments on Allen, but released a statement through the team.

"We believe he's going to come in hungry and excited to be part of our football team, and we believe he'll fit right in," Trestman said.

Contributing: Tom Pelissero

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