The Chicago Bears continued to rebuild their defense this weekend after losing two of their starting linebackers to free agency. Nick Roach signed with the Oakland Raiders and Brian Urlacher was cut last week, still searching for work.
Chicago signed former Carolina Panthers linebacker James Anderson, who has spent his entire seven year NFL career with the team. Anderson, 30, owns the Panthers’ record with 94 games started at linebacker, most coming from the strong side. He was a cap casualty that made sense for Carolina this off season after missing the last four games to injury last year.
In Carolina, Anderson set a team record with 20 tackles in a single game last season against the New York Giants. With 454 career tackles to go with a handful of forced fumbles and recoveries and three career picks, he brings much experience to the Bears. Anderson believes he is still in his prime and looks to start next season opposite Lance Briggs.
Anderson knows he is coming to a franchise that expects big things from its linebackers, and realizes playing on a defense that lost its leader for the last decade puts added pressure on him.
General manager Phil Emery and the Bears front office have acted as if they never knew the name “Urlacher” in the past few days. In signing former Denver Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams last week, they now have what looks to be their starting linebackers figured out before they enter the NFL Draft in April.
Emery and company have put themselves in tremendous position going into the draft, and truly have the ability to draft the best available player regardless of need. The way Emery sees it, you do not pass on the best option at your current pick no matter what. They have also been said to be considering trading down in order to have an extra pick in their back pocket.
I like what the Bears have done so far post-Urlacher. They have two capable linebackers that can come in right away and compete for a starting spot, and some even believe they will be better for the system than Roach and Urlacher were last season. Bears fans have every reason to still be sour over losing the face of their franchise, but the defense will still be a force to be reckoned with.
Being as aggressive as the Bears have been this off season, it appears Emery has a definitive plan. He is a no-nonsense kind of guy and believes in being well prepared, like his newly-hired head coach Marc Trestman. The city of Chicago and Bears fans everywhere need not worry — the Monsters of the Midway are looking to return to form next season.