This NFL Free Agency period has been quite the ride so far, especially for the Chicago Bears. To start things off, general manager Phil Emery decided to let go of head coach Lovie Smith. This noisy move was followed by the unexpected: Emery proceeded to cut the face of the franchise for over a decade, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.
While Urlacher provided the Bears with invaluable knowledge on the field and off, Chicago decided to go in a different direction. Ultimately, Emery and company moved on quickly. Right away within a week of the Urlacher release, they signed a pair of starting linebackers in D.J. Williams and James Anderson formerly of the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, respectively.
Williams has been a versatile player his entire career and knows how to play each of the linebacker positions. Anderson, on the other hand, has been solely an outside linebacker. Both come from teams where they were the starter and received ample playing time, which is a great sign for Chicago.
Bringing in two linebackers of starting quality was huge, specifically because it was done so quickly after letting go of Urlacher. Williams and Anderson will be able to come in right away and compete for a starting job.
Wait, compete? Absolutely. The Bears were not finished there.
Bostic is a perfect fit. He was the captain of the nation’s best defense last year with the Gators and brings a lot of experience and poise to the team. He is excellent at wrapping up and has a keen sense of reading the offense at the line of scrimmage. Not to mention, the last name just sounds like a Bears middle linebacker, doesn’t it?
With Greene, the Bears get more of a raw athlete who appears to be coachable as far as teaching a new scheme and getting him to the NFL-ready level of play. In college, he was a turnover machine with a set of wheels. He’s a fairly quick player who has a knack for coming up with the football. This will bode well for a defense led by ball hawk Charles Tillman. Between Tillman and Greene, the Bears could continue their ways of leading the league in total takeaways.
So, now the Bears head into their off season programs with something they haven’t had for a very long time: wide open competition at two linebacker spots. Who would have thought this would be the case a couple of years ago? I mean, maybe the outside spot would have been forfeited by former Bear Nick Roach. But, Urlacher leaving? I can’t say I would have seen this type of competition coming. Maybe that’s the blind fan deep down somewhere inside me, but nonetheless, Chicago and its fans definitely have a reason to be excited. Competition is a head coach’s dream.
As the off season workouts and team meetings continue, it will be exciting to track how well these four newcomers pick things up and the impressions they make on new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. One of the overlooked aspects of this whole topic is the leadership and coaching that starting outside linebacker Lance Briggs will bring to these guys. Briggs is coming off one of the best years of his career – which included a shocking Pro Bowl snub, oddly enough – and will give Tucker and his coaches the luxury of being able to teach these linebackers just what Chicago Bears football is all about.
Two months ago, you could say the Bears defense could have looked better. Today, both coaches and fans are elated to have the type of core they do at the linebacker position. The post-Urlacher era has only begun.