- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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ESPNChicago.com continues its Bears draft preview series with a look at the defensive tackles.
The Chicago Bears' decision to apply the franchise tag to Pro Bowler Henry Melton eliminated the need to pursue a starting-caliber defensive tackle in free agency, but the idea of adding another interior defensive lineman via the draft seems plausible.
With Melton and former second-round pick Stephen Paea already in place to anchor the first-team, the Bears re-signed Nate Collins to a veteran minimum contract deal and recently picked up former Detroit Lions defensive tackle Andre Fluellen to provide depth after the Bears released Matt Toeaina. Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye also remains unsigned.
Under former general manager Jerry Angelo, the Bears routinely used high draft picks on defensive tackles, selecting such players as Paea (2011), Jarron Gilbert (2009), Marcus Harrison (2008), Dusty Dvoracek (2006) and Tommie Harris (2004). The Bears always placed an emphasis on speed, not size, in the old defensive system run by ex-coach Lovie Smith, so it will be interesting to see if the philosophy changes with new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker calling the shots.
Next 10: Jordan Hill, Penn State, 6-1, 303; Montori Hughes, Tennessee-Martin, 6-4, 329; Josh Boyd, Mississippi State, 6-3, 310; Bennie Logan, LSU, 6-2, 309; Everett Dawkins, Florida State, 6-2, 292; Nicholas Williams, Samford, 6-5, 309; T.J. Barnes, Georgia Tech, 6-6, 369; Kwame Geathers, Georgia, 6-6, 342; Cody Grissom, South Florida, 6-2, 306; Mike Purcell, Wyoming, 6-3, 305.
Analysis: Until Melton is locked up to a long-term deal, the Bears need to be serious about searching for his replacement. The jury is still out on Paea, whom the Bears moved to nose tackle his rookie season, despite the fact he was billed as a three-technique coming into the league. Paea started 14 games last season and finished with just 2.5 sacks. However, on a positive note, Paea made it through the regular season in relative good health, a major improvement from his rookie campaign.
Reserves Collins and Fluellen possess certain pass-rushing traits, but defensive tackle is still considered a need. Unless the Bears are sold on one of the early-round prospects, there seems to be a couple potential mid-round prospects that could entice the Bears later in the draft.