Well, this kind of came out of nowhere. Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, who signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears this offseason, rather arbitrarily decided to retire today. All players on the team were supposed to report for training camp today, but for Ellis, he’ll be staying home.
Ellis was selected seventh overall in the 2008 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. He was very good in his first three seasons with the team racking up 12 sacks. However, with different scheme changes he struggled the last two years, and mentioned those changes as the issue with his production. This made his opportunity with the Bears seem like a very good one that would revive his career as well as provide the team with strong veteran depth at the three-technique position on the line.
Then, this very surprising turn of events occurred. Ellis was supposed to be the third defensive tackle in the Bears’ rotation behind starters Henry Melton and Stephen Paea. However, now their next best tackle on the roster is Nate Collins, and while he wasn’t bad last season, he’s far from proven himself as a reliable contributor in every game of the season.
That means the Bears need to look elsewhere for help. Sure, there are a few no-name guys trying to prove themselves and earn a roster spot in camp, but you can’t put all your eggs in that basket. Now it’s time for GM Phil Emery to look at who’s available.
Good news for Chicago, there are still some guys out there who could make an impact this year.
Corey Williams started 36 games over the last three seasons for the Detroit Lions, but only started five last year due to a knee injury. However, if he’s past that and completes a physical successfully, he could be a nice pickup.
Another potential addition could be Spencer Johnson. He’s a nine-year veteran and just wrapped up a five-year stint with the Buffalo Bills. In 2011, he started 11 games for the team and was productive with 47 tackles, one forced fumble and two sacks. Last year, though, he came off the bench, which would be the role he would serve this year for the Bears. He was still able to produce in this role with 19 tackles, one forced fumble and two sacks once again. Johnson would be a smart move by the Bears.
Of course, they could go with a couple familiar faces as well. Matt Toeaina and Amobi Okoye are still available in free agency and one or even both of them could be brought back in to compete for roster spots.
Whatever the Bears decide to do, it’s clear that they need more than what’s on the roster. Here was a few choices, however, there are some other players they may take a look at on the market as well. Either way, Ellis’ retirement was a bit shocking, and now the team must move on and add someone else to the mix.
UPDATE: The Bears have signed Jamaal Anderson, a former first-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons. He’s a big defensive end at 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds, but he doesn’t seem to be an answer in the defensive tackle rotation, even if he is big enough to play inside. The reason for that is because he only has 7.5 sacks in six seasons. I still expect them to bring in another big man to compete for a spot at DT.