The Chicago Bears sent shock waves throughout the NFL a couple of days ago by cutting face of the franchise, Hall of Fame bound linebacker Brian Urlacher after he refused a 75% pay cut. Bears general manager Phil Emery had the media in a frenzy and some of the fans in a stunned depression after the move. Well, after the ugly breakup, the Bears went to work Friday by signing former Denver Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams.
Williams was a recent cut due to his off-the-field issues last season. He was suspended a total of nine games because of two separate incidents. One because he violated the league’s substance abuse policy, and another because of his second DUI arrest.
Despite his trouble off the field, Williams is a guy who makes Emery excited about the future of the Bears. In nine seasons with the Broncos, Williams recorded 824 tackles in 127 career games. These are the type of stats that look good alongside current starting outside linebacker Lance Briggs. Williams brings a versatility to the linebacker position, being one of the quicker linebackers out there; something the Bears thought Urlacher was losing the past couple of years.
With his impressive pile of tackles, Williams also brings with him 20.5 career sacks, 13 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, and two interceptions. He has yet to score a defensive touchdown in his career, but that could soon change being part of a Bears defense that made a living on scoring touchdowns last year.
“We are happy to welcome D.J. to the Bears and are excited to start working with him,” Emery said. “This is a great opportunity for D.J. to restart his career after coming off suspension for part of the 2012 season. We see a player that has very good athletic upside who can contribute immediately at MIKE (middle) linebacker. He is also a versatile player who has played both outside linebacker positions, giving us flexibility in the draft.”
In my opinion, Emery hit a home run with this signing. Not only did the Bears get a good player on the cheap, but they gave themselves options in the upcoming NFL Draft. Because Williams is experienced in playing both outside and middle linebacker, Chicago can draft the best available linebacker when they choose to address that need.
With only five picks in the upcoming draft (1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th round), Emery and company are going to need to swing for the fences and bring in a few extra runs with their selections. The draft hasn’t been consistently good nor consistently bad in Chicago recently, but they must make this year’s worth it.