On Thursday the Minnesota Vikings agreed to a one-year deal with former Chicago Bears defensive end Corey Wootton, which marks the third starter along the defensive line to leave the Bears so far this offseason. Henry Melton signed a deal with the Dallas Cowboys earlier this week, and Julius Peppers was released and subsequently signed a three-year deal with the Green Bay Packers last weekend. Together with Shea McClellin moving to linebacker this season, the team has lost four defensive linemen from last season.
Now the Bears have brought in some help along the defensive line by signing former Oakland Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston, and former Detroit Lions Willie Young, Austen Lane and Israel Idonije, who spent his first nine seasons in the NFL with the Bears, but it never hurts to add depth along your line.
As the Bears learned last season, depth along the line is key. Even if they are lucky enough to stay healthy, the new style of fast-paced offenses in the NFL forces the defense into substitutions along the line in order for the bigger guys to catch a breath. Being able to bring in another quality man, even for a few plays, helps keep the offense in check. This is a lesson the Bears learned the hard way last season as they were routed by the Philadelphia Eagles and first-year head coach Chip Kelly‘s run and gun offense 54-21. With the NFL’s reputation as a copycat league and the success of teams utilizing fast-paced offenses, there will definitely be more teams moving towards the no-huddle style offense in the next few years.
Both Houston and Young are locked in for three-year deals, but the Bears only have one interior starter who is signed for more than one year, the aging Jeremiah Ratliff, who inked a two-year deal before free agency began this year after only playing in five games with the team last season. The Bears re-signed Nate Collins to a one-year deal in early March, and Stephen Paea is nearing the end of his rookie deal, with both players returning from injuries stemming from last season. General manager Phil Emery has shown an ability to identify his team’s needs and go after them, so it should be a forgone conclusion that the team takes a defensive lineman in the first round.
The top two options for the Bears in the upcoming draft are Aaron Donald from Pittsburgh and Timmy Jernigan from Florida State. The consensus among draft analysts is that the Bears will take Donald because of his impressive workouts at the scouting combine last month. Though whichever player the team selects better be ready to play in the NFL, because it seems the Bears will need playing time from them right out of the gate.
Read more on the Bears draft here.