- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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As it stands now, the club carries just three defensive tackles into its offseason conditioning program in Henry Melton, Stephen Paea and Nate Collins. At the end of the 2012 season, the Bears were carrying four players at the position.
According to the team's game-by-game participation statistics, the Bears rotated six players at defensive tackle, including free-agent defensive end Israel Idonije, who started two games at one of the interior spots.
Given the importance of the defensive tackle position in a 4-3 scheme, the Bears certainly need to acquire at least one more player to serve in the rotation. On the offensive line, players participate in entire games at their set positions. But on defense, teams typically like to rotate the more athletic defensive linemen in and out of the lineup to keep them fresh.
Veteran defensive tackle Amobi Okoye may still be a possibility for the Bears, but he's testing the free agent market. A four-year starter with the Houston Texans, who drafted him No. 10 overall in 2007, Okoye has never lived up to the expectations that accompanied his high draft position. Because of Okoye's history with former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who recently joined the Dallas Cowboys, it was rumored the Cowboys might be interested. But Okoye remains unsigned, and there's a small possibility he could return to the Bears on a veteran minimum deal.
Idonije appears to be another option as a rotational player, although he started the first nine games of last season at left defensive end, opposite Julius Peppers. Idonije possesses the versatility to kick inside to defensive tackle in a pinch as a starter or as a situational pass rusher. Idonije received $2.5 million last season in salary and bonuses. But a return to Chicago for Idonije would have to come at a greatly reduced rate.
So whether the Bears use the draft in April or veteran free agency to address defensive tackle it appears certain the team will add at the position before it gets into the meat of its offseason schedule with minicamps and organized team activities looming.
After all, just getting through practices would seem to be a difficult task with just three defensive tackles on the roster.
With the release of veteran defensive tackle Matt Toeaina on Tuesday, the Chicago Bears created a void at the position they'll need to address through the upcoming draft or veteran free agency.