Chicago Bears: Israel Idonije

Chicago Bears draft wrap-up

May, 10, 2014
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A wrap-up of the Chicago Bears’ draft. Click here for a full list of Bears' draftees.

Bears general manager Phil Emery likes to say a team can never expect to fill all of its needs via the draft. Well, eight draft choices later, the Bears actually came close.

Best move: Taking defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton with consecutive picks on Day 2. We don’t know if Ferguson or Sutton will pan out, but the Bears had to keep strengthening the defensive line after last season. Ferguson and Sutton join new faces Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Austen Lane, Trevor Scott and Israel Idonije, who is back for his second tour of duty. The Bears also re-signed tackles Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins to help fortify the trenches on defense.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Casey
Casey Sapio/USA TODAY SportsArizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, a fourth-round pick by the Bears, has some question marks in terms of off-the-field incidents.
This reminds me of how Emery & Co. rebuilt the offensive line last offseason.

Riskiest move: Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey’s (fourth round) on-field production speaks for itself: 4,239 yards, 48 rushing touchdowns and 77 receptions for 679 yards in three years for the Wildcats.

However, there are questions about Carey that extended beyond the football field. The 5-9, 207-pound tailback reportedly had multiple run-ins with the authorities, including a charge of assaulting his pregnant ex-girlfriend that was later dismissed.

Carey depicted himself as a high-character individual when he spoke to Chicago media members following his selection by the Bears at No. 117.

“As you guys are going to get to know me over the years; I’m an outgoing [person] who loves kids and is light-hearted,” Carey said. “I would never do anything to harm people. I’m a loveful cat.”

Emery is not afraid to draft or acquire players with questionable character. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall has rewarded Emery’s faith in him by posting consecutive Pro Bowl seasons. On the flip side, 2012 fourth-round pick Evan Rodriguez lasted only one season before being cut after multiple run-ins with the law last offseason.

Most surprising move: Emery told reporters before the draft that he rejected the notion of drafting a developmental quarterback in the later rounds with the intent of grooming him to be a future starter.

The Bears selected San Jose State quarterback David Fales in the sixth round (183).

Go figure.

File it away: Time will tell if the Bears regret passing on a safety in the first round.

The organization continued its longstanding tradition of waiting until the later rounds to address the position when they moved back into the fourth round and traded away a pair of fifth-round selections to grab Minnesota’s Brock Vereen at 131. Vereen does have an excellent NFL pedigree. His brother, Shane, a standout running back, was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. Their father, Henry, was drafted by the Bucs in 1979.

Vereen is a versatile player who lined up at all four defensive back spots over the course of his career with the Golden Gophers. He started 36 games and registered 200 tackles, four interceptions, 7.5 tackles-for-loss and one blocked kick.

“Brock is one of the smartest and most versatile players I have ever had the privilege of coaching and is an outstanding young man,” Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill said. “He is the ultimate team player and will do whatever is needed to help the Bears win. I know he is going to make Chicago a better team and will also be a great teammate in the locker room.”

But you can argue the Bears are in this mess at safety because the organization doesn't put a high enough value on the position.

Ferguson connects with veteran DL coach

May, 9, 2014
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Statistics can be deceiving.

The Chicago Bears clearly looked beyond LSU defensive tackle Ego Ferguson's modest career collegiate numbers (12 career starts, 85 tackles, five tackles-for-loss and one sack) when drafting him at No. 51 overall.

They obviously believe the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Ferguson will add fresh legs to an already decent rotation at defensive tackle that includes veterans Jeremiah Ratliff, Nate Collins and Stephen Paea. Because the Bears are so high on Ratliff at three-technique, general manager Phil Emery didn't have to necessarily find a Week 1 starting interior defensive lineman in the draft.

After Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman and Florida State's Timmy Jernigan were taken off the board, Ferguson was the next best option in the Bears' mind.

He can stop the run. Ferguson had 58 tackles in 2013 when he was named honorable mention All-SEC. Not to be redundant, but the Bears are determined to find players that thrive in run support.

Word is Ferguson still needs to develop better interior pass-rushing skills.

"You always need to work," Ferguson said Friday night. "I need to improve on pass-rush and my spin move. But one thing I always bring is my heart and my competitive nature. [I'll do] whatever it takes and for however long it takes to win."

Second-round picks are expected to contribute in Year 1, but Ferguson has the luxury of working on his technique with veteran Bears defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni until he's ready to be thrust into a starting role.

Ferguson told reporters at Halas Hall he had a positive meeting with Pasqualoni when he visited the Bears before his pro day.

"[Pasqualoni] has a great personality and he brought me to the office and we were talking ball for a long time," Ferguson said. "He asked me if I can play that two-technique, can I do it? He said that's what the Bears want me for. He showed a lot of interest."

Pasqualoni was an important hire for the Bears in the offseason. With more than 40 years of coaching experience, he is the perfect person to coach up younger defensive linemen that may possess above-average traits, but have yet to garner above-average success.

The Bears are counting on Pasqualoni to refine Ferguson's pass-rushing technique; just as Rod Marinelli did with Israel Idonije, Henry Melton and Corey Wootton before the veteran coach departed for Dallas after the Chicago Bears fired Lovie Smith.

Reviewing the Bears' drafts: 2013

April, 18, 2014
Here is Part 5 of our series reviewing the past five drafts of the Chicago Bears.

With one full-season under his belt, general manager Phil Emery took on the task of rebuilding the offensive line, while inserting youth into an aging defense that would be playing under a new head coach for the first time since 2004.

First-round pick: Kyle Long, OG, Oregon

Number of picks: 6

How they did: Above average. Four of the six members of the 2013 draft class cracked the starting lineup last season, with Long and fifth-round choice Jordan Mills starting all 16 regular-season games. Bostic was thrown into the fire after veteran middle linebacker D.J. Williams suffered a season-ending injury, and Greene had the unenviable task of attempting to replace perennial Pro Bowl weakside linebacker Lance Briggs, who missed seven games because of a shoulder issue. Seventh-rounder Marquess Wilson played sparingly as a rookie, but is expected to have a much larger role in the offense as the No. 3 wide receiver in 2014. Cornelius Washington, a sixth-round defensive end out of Georgia, spent the bulk of the season on the inactive list.

[+] EnlargeKyle Long
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesKyle Long showed leadership qualities as a rookie.
Pivotal pick: Long. The Bears switched out four of their five starting offensive linemen from 2012 to 2013. Though the club signed left tackle Jermon Bushrod and left guard Matt Slauson (a pair of excellent free-agent pickups) before the draft, it was critical for the organization to hit on a first-round offensive lineman after missing on Chris Williams (2008) and Gabe Carimi (2011). Another failure on the offensive line in the first round would have forced the Bears to spend more money in free agency or re-draft the position again entirely. That will not have to happen unless Long suffers some kind of injury. He should be a fixture on the Bears’ offensive line for 10 years, at least. Plus, his athleticism and intelligence could allow him to change positions in the future if the Bears deem it necessary.

Best pick: Long. When respected team captain and veteran center Roberto Garza calls it quits, Long will take over the leadership of the offensive line and be one of the key voices in the locker room. Although Long prefers not to talk about himself, he has a commanding presence that cannot be ignored. But what makes this such a great pick is that Long was a relative unknown coming out of Oregon, where he started just a handful of games. It takes guts to select a player at No. 20 overall who played only one year of major college football. Yet, the Bears did their homework, stood by their convictions, and were rewarded with likely the club’s best first-round pick since Tommie Harris in 2004.

Worst pick: Washington. But to be fair, he’s only been in the NFL for one season. There is a chance he improves his technique in the offseason and learns how to use his 6-foot-4 frame to his advantage. Washington never really had a permanent position at Georgia, so he is considered raw. Obviously, the Bears did not feel comfortable enough to use Washington last season as a rookie even though the club badly needed help up front on the defensive line. With the additions of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Israel Idonije, it will be tough for Washington to make an impact, or even to make the team in 2014. But it’s never wise to give up on a young player after just one season. Let’s see how it plays out for Washington when the team officially begins its offseason program on April 22.

LS Mannelly undecided about future

April, 8, 2014
DES PLAINES, Ill. -- If Bears free-agent long snapper Patrick Mannelly does not return to Chicago for a franchise record 17th season, the team’s all-time leader in games played (245) would probably lean toward retirement.

That’s the scenario Mannelly laid out to reporters before being honored as the Bears’ 2013 Ed Block Courage Award winner at a luncheon held at Maryville Academy in suburban Des Plaines, Ill., an event attended by team matriarch Virginia McCaskey.

“It would be tough to put on another helmet for another team,” the Mannelly, 38, said.

The only member of the 1998 draft class that is still playing with their original team, Mannelly is almost three months into a four-to-six month rehabilitation process following offseason hip surgery.

Mannelly is scheduled to fly to California Tuesday night to continue his rehab work at EXOS in San Diego -- he is no longer under contract with the Bears and cannot use the facilities at Halas Hall -- but the veteran long snapper is undecided about his future.

"As athletes you always think you can play forever and I’ve been lucky to play for a long time," Mannelly said. "But I really want to listen to my body and see what happens. You always want to play forever. Your heart wants to play forever. Your mind wants to play forever. But we'll see.

"I would feel bad if I didn’t give it everything I had and [slacked] in the offseason. I’m not going to do that. I truly want to find out. I want to put myself in a position where I get sore again and feel hurt every day and see how much I enjoy it and how I bounce back the next morning.”

The Bears are expected to offer Mannelly a one-year contract if he decides to continue for another season, although a drop-dead date has not been set for Mannelly to make a final decision.

“We haven’t really set anything in stone for that,” Mannelly said. “I have some dates in my mind that I want to set to reach certain plateaus and goals to get ready for the season. I’ll leave those dates to me but we will see.”

If Mannelly’s recovery goes according to plan, he could theoretically return to the field when the Bears hold their organized team activities in late May and early June. But the Bears had to protect themselves at the position and agreed to terms on a three-year deal with former CFL long snapper Chad Rempel on Monday.

“It’s a smart move,” Mannelly said. “Phil Emery should do that. I’ll be 39 this year and I don’t know if I’m going to be back. They need to take care of their roster and that’s the most important thing.”

The Ed Block Courage Award is given out annually to one player on all 32 NFL teams who best exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage and serves as an inspiration in the locker room. Teammates vote for the award. Ed Block Courage Award winners symbolize professionalism, great strength and dedication, and are considered role models in the community.

Past Bears recipients of the Ed Block Courage Award include: Nick Roach (2012), Brian Urlacher (2011), Anthony Adams (2010), Israel Idonije (2009) and Charles Tillman (2008).

The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation promotes the prevention of child abuse by raising awareness and assisting agencies that provide for the care and treatment of abused children.
The Chicago Bears wanted to re-sign defensive end Israel Idonije last offseason, but lost him in June to NFC North foe Detroit.

Now the Bears find themselves in position to acquire Idonije again, with the free-agent defensive end scheduled to visit the team and take a physical on Tuesday, according to an NFL sources.

NFL Network's Albert Breer first reported the news.

After spending the first nine years of his career with Chicago, where he began as a core special teams contributor, before blossoming into a full-time starter, Idonije joined the Lions after failing to come to an agreement in free agency with the Bears. In his only season with the Lions, Idonije participated in 15 games, contributing 11 tackles and half a sack.

When Idonije initially joined the Lions, he was coming off a 2012 season in which he finished second on the team with 7.5 sacks.

Despite the club signing defensive ends Lamarr Houston and Willie Young in free agency, it could still stand to add some depth along the defensive line. Idonije possesses the versatility to play inside or outside, and could be a positive locker room presence for the Bears as they continue to add youth on defense.

Over the past four years in Chicago, Idonije posted 23 sacks and was traditionally one of the top tacklers on the defensive line.

Patrick Mannelly wins Ed Block Award

March, 7, 2014
Chicago Bears veteran long-snapper Patrick Mannelly has been voted the 2013 Ed Block Courage Award winner.

Mannelly will be presented with the award on April 8, at a luncheon held at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines.

The Ed Block Courage Award is given out annually to one player on all 32 NFL teams who best exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage and serves as an inspiration in the locker room. Teammates vote for the award. Ed Block Courage Award winners symbolize professionalism, great strength and dedication, and are considered role models in the community.

Past recipients of the Ed Block Courage Award include: Nick Roach (2012), Brian Urlacher (2011), Anthony Adams (2010), Israel Idonije (2009) and Charles Tillman (2008).

The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation promotes the prevention of child abuse by raising awareness and assisting agencies that provide for the care and treatment of abused children.

Mannelly holds the franchise record for seasons of service (16) and games played (245). He holds the honor of being the only player from the 1998 NFL draft (sixth round) that is still playing with the team that originally selected him. Mannelly has missed only 11 games in his career and has snapped the ball 2,282 times over the course of his illustrious career.

Mannelly, 38, is recovering from offseason hip surgery but is expected to be welcomed back to the Bears if he decides to play for a 17th season. The veteran long-snapper is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.
DETROIT -- Knowing the capabilities of running back Reggie Bush meant little in terms of stopping him for the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Ford Field.

Bush wrecked the Bears for 112 yards on 11 attempts in the first half to help Detroit build a 30-13 lead at intermission, before hanging on to capture a 40-32 win and first place in the NFC North. Chicago slowed down Bush in the second half, limiting him to 27 yards on seven carries. But by then, the damage had already been done.

[+] EnlargeReggie Bush
AP Photo/Paul SancyaThe Bears knew what to expect from Lions running back Reggie Bush but were still unable to contain him.
“We just missed a lot of tackles,” Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said. “He did a good job of making his moves. You have to give credit where credit is due. He’s a good back.”

Bush made that known almost immediately. Julius Peppers stopped Bush for no gain on the running back’s first attempt, but he ran for gains of 9, 11 and 17 yards on his next three attempts.

Bush’s first two attempts of the second quarter gained 15 and 16 yards.

“I think they had a good game plan for us in the run game. They have Israel Idonije over there, who was a long time player for us, and who also happens to really know our defense,” safety Chris Conte said. “So they really had a great scheme going. But we just have to have a better effort individually. That’s all there is to it.”

Idonije played nine seasons in Chicago, and at least one of the team’s current players suspects his former teammate tipped off the Lions to what the Bears were doing defensively. The player said that Bush broke most of his big gains when Chicago called for its “power” stunt. A stunt involves defensive linemen altering the path of their rush in a coordinated fashion in an attempt to confuse opposing offensive line, which in turn, makes it more difficult for them to block.

Because of Bush’s production during when Chicago ran that stunt, the Bears abandoned the call altogether, according to the player.

Bush broke a highlight-reel run for a 37-yard touchdown with 2:43 left in the second quarter to help the Lions go ahead 30-10 after the extra point, and there’s a good chance Detroit caught the Bears on that play in their “power” stunt.

“A sweet run,” Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “It was a play that, honestly, we have been working in practice all week knowing that they were going to blitz us. Instead of getting out of it, we just ran right into it. Dom [Raiola] made a great call up front. [Tight end Brandon] Pettigrew had a great block. We sealed off the backside, and then Reggie did the rest.”

The Bears played a good portion of the opening half in a nickel defense, which features five defensive backs, and just six players in the box to defend the run. Bush admitted to becoming “very excited” upon seeing Chicago’s personnel grouping.

“When we have them in nickel, and there’s six guys in the box, we’ve got to take advantage of that,” Bush said. “We definitely felt that was an area we could take advantage.”

Detroit certainly did that.

Bush said on some runs he “really didn’t get touched a whole lot until I got to the secondary.” By then, all Bush had to do was turn on the speed or juke the defender in space.

“If we don’t tackle, we’ve got trouble,” said Bears safety Major Wright, “especially with a back like that. Today, he came out and had a good game because we didn’t tackle him. Reggie Bush is special. He has speed. He can shake you. He can do everything.”

The Bears knew as much going in. The problem is they couldn’t do anything to stop it, which is a concern moving forward for a Chicago defense whose main goal always is to stop the run first.

The Bears played without franchise defensive tackle Henry Melton, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. Nate Collins played the nose tackle spot, with Paea moving into Melton’s place as the three-technique.

Collins and Paea admitted the Bears are depleted up front without Melton in the mix, but each repeated the team’s next-man-up mentality for dealing with injury. Paea called Bush “another Adrian Peterson, if not quicker,” while Collins mentioned that an inch of daylight for the running back is often too much.

“He’s got quicks. He’s got jukes,” Collins said. “The running plays they had, if there was just a little sliver, he could still get through it quick going downhill. A guy like that, it’s hard enough to tackle him. But when he gets a little space, gets going and gains speed, that makes it even worse.”

Briggs: Comfortable being uncomfortable

July, 26, 2013
Lance BriggsAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhLance Briggs is embracing the uncomfortable feeling his new role is providing.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – When the Chicago Bears severed ties with future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, it thrust seven-time Pro Bowl weak side linebacker Lance Briggs into a more vocal role. For the first time since college, Briggs is responsible for calling the defense on the play, a task Urlacher handled with relative ease for the last 13 years.

“I accept it,” Briggs said of the new responsibility. “I was real comfortable in my role before. Very comfortable. Now I’m getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

(Read full post)

NFC North: Training camp issues

July, 16, 2013
Bostic, Lacy & Patterson Getty ImagesOpportunities await Jon Bostic, left, Eddie Lacy, center, and Cordarrelle Patterson in training camp.
In 10 days, all four NFC North teams will have stepped onto the practice field for their 2013 training camps. I can't think of a better way to wade through these final days than by identifying 10 key issues we will no doubt be focusing on over the next six weeks or so.

I'm staying away from some of the obvious ones and instead focusing on developments for which we have a reasonable expectation of resolution before the start of the regular season. We won't know by Labor Day, for example, if Jay Cutler is a good fit for the Chicago Bears' new offense under Marc Trestman. It'll be impossible to conclude whether Christian Ponder has taken a step forward as the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback, or whether the Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford has fixed his mechanics or if the Green Bay Packers know how to stop the read-option.

Answers to those questions won't be evident until regular-season games start. I think it's reasonable to expect quicker resolution to the questions identified below.

Issue: Jon Bostic and the Bears' middle linebacker job
Analysis: General manager Phil Emery gave the team a safety blanket by signing veteran D.J. Williams, who is expected to open training camp in Brian Urlacher's old spot. But the Bears used a second-round draft pick on Bostic, and one day he almost certainly will have the job. If he can win it in training camp, the Bears can move Williams to the outside or use fellow newcomer James Anderson there.

Issue: A role for Bears defensive end Shea McClellin
Analysis: McClellin was the Bears' first-round draft pick just one year ago, but he'll have to compete hard to establish a role commensurate with that status. Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton finished last season as the Bears' starting defensive ends, and Wootton is in a contract year and thus will be highly motivated. The Bears cleared some space by allowing Israel Idonije to depart via free agency, but McClellin's path to regular playing time is far from certain.

Issue: Starting Kyle Long
Analysis: There has been an assumption that Long will be plugged into the starting lineup at one of the Bears' guard positions, but it's only fair to reiterate his relative lack of experience (four starts) in Division I. Moreover, Long was unable to participate in most of the Bears' offseason program because of NFL rules regarding the timing of college graduation. In other words, Long is as green as it gets for a first-round draft pick. It will be nice to see, finally, what the Bears have in him.

Issue: Ryan Broyles' status in Detroit
Analysis: Broyles tore his ACL in Week 13 last season and will push to be ready for camp. If Broyles is healthy and available, he will join Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson to form a really good trio. If he needs more time, the Lions will be thin at the position to start the season. Mike Thomas, a slot receiver acquired last season from the Jacksonville Jaguars, would be next up.

Issue: Ziggy Ansah's development
Analysis: Generally speaking, the No. 5 overall pick of a draft should be ready to step into the lineup and make an immediate contribution. Ansah, as has been well-documented, was a late arrival to football and might need more development time than most No. 5 overall picks. Idonije gives the Lions an option if Ansah isn't ready to start, and in truth snaps are more important than the starting lineup. But when you draft a defensive end at No. 5 overall, you expect him to be ready to handle a full-time load almost immediately.

Issue: Packers' running back rotation
Analysis: The Packers gave themselves a good problem this offseason by adding two draft choices, Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, to a group that also included DuJuan Harris, James Starks and Alex Green. It seems unlikely that all of them will make the roster, but the more pressing matter is how they will be used and how often. Harris would have been the favorite to start entering training camp, but he missed the offseason because of injuries, and the position should now be considered wide open.

Issue: Mason Crosby's reaction to competition
Analysis: Crosby's extended slump last season prompted the Packers to bring a second place-kicker to camp for the first time since he established himself as the Packers' full-time kicker. There is every reason to consider Crosby the heavy favorite over Giorgio Tavecchio, but that's assuming Crosby handles the competition well. It has been a while since Crosby had to secure his job.

Issue: Replacing Charles Woodson in Green Bay
Analysis: Woodson played safety and cornerback for the Packers last season. Now, they have a competitive situation at both spots. Training camp should tell us whether M.D. Jennings or Jerron McMillian is ready to grab a safety spot next to Morgan Burnett. We'll also get to see a spirited competition at cornerback between Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Davon House and others for the chance to play alongside Tramon Williams.

Issue: Vikings linebacker alignment
Analysis: It is reasonable to expect Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson and Desmond Bishop to start in the Vikings' 4-3 base. But what positions will they play? Training camp should make that clear. Bishop would seem best suited for the inside, with Henderson returning to his former role outside, but it's not out of the question that the Vikings could experiment in the reverse during camp to find the best combination.

Issue: Cordarrelle Patterson's development
Analysis: Shortly after the draft, we were led to believe that the Vikings rookie would fit in as a kickoff returner this season while he learned how to play receiver at the professional level. But if offseason practices were any indication, Patterson might be ready for a bigger role on offense right away. Can he emerge from training camp as a starter opposite Greg Jennings? That's the Vikings' best-case scenario, one that didn't seem possible in April but can't be ruled out on the eve of camp.

Idonije agrees to terms with Lions

June, 25, 2013
The Detroit Lions and free agent defensive lineman Israel Idonije agreed to terms on a one-year contract Tuesday.

The Lions announced the deal on their website and official Twitter feed.

Read the entire story.
Veteran free agent defensive lineman Israel Idonije visited the Tennessee Titans on Monday, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Idonije finished second on the Chicago Bears last season with 7.5 sacks in 11 starts.

The 32-year-old versatile defensive lineman has been one of the Bears' most productive pass rushers since becoming a fixture in the starting lineup in 2010, opposite Pro Bowler Julius Peppers.

Idonije lost a little playing time last season to Corey Wootton but because of his versatility, Idonije was able to slide inside to defensive tackle when the Bears switched to their nickel defense.

A nine-year NFL veteran, Idonije has been a member of the Bears for nearly his entire career and is very active in the community. Idonije was one of three finalists for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2010.

The Bears re-signed Idonije to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million last offseason. While the Bears have expressed interest in Idonije returning, it's believed he would have to accept less money to remain in Chicago.
Cornelius WashingtonTodd Kirkland/Icon SMICornelius Washington made 22 tackles for Georgia last season.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Keeping with the mantra of acquiring “dynamic” players, the Chicago Bears appeared to acquire another Saturday in the sixth round (188th overall) in Georgia defensive end Cornelius Washington, who was considered by some to be a late second-round talent.

“I’m a little bit disappointed, but the call came,” Washington said. “That’s what’s really important.”

The addition beefs up an already fairly explosive Bears pass rush. If Washington adjusts quickly to the NFL game, he’ll become an immediate contributor as a situational pass rusher, which just might signify the end of Israel Idonije's tenure with the Bears.

(Read full post)

Bears in market for defensive tackles

April, 3, 2013
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.

[+] EnlargeIsrael Idonije
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsIsrael Idonije would give the Bears flexibility along the defensive line but a return to Chicago would likely have to come at a reduced price tag.
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.

Bears interested in re-signing Idonije

February, 22, 2013
Russell Wilsononathan Daniel/Getty ImagesIsrael Idonije had 7.5 sacks last season, second on the Bears.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Chicago Bears are interested in re-signing veteran defensive end Israel Idonije for at least another season, general manager Phil Emery said Thursday.

"He's done a number of good things and had a number of good games both outside and inside," Emery said. "He's a guy we will sit down with and talk to about coming back. He's got versatility and that's a positive thing for Izzy. He's done a good job for us."

(Read full post)

Bears free agency preview: Defensive ends

February, 4, 2013
ESPNChicago examines potential unrestricted free agents at positions of need for the Bears.

Jay CutlerJerry Lai/US PresswireCliff Avril had 9.5 sacks last season for the Lions.

Bears free agency previews: G | WR | TE | QB | LB | OT

A team can never have too many pass rushers.

Veteran defensive end Julius Peppers remains the crown jewel of the Chicago Bears' edge rushers, even though he recently turned 33 years old and carries a $16.383 million cap number in 2013. It would be difficult to convince even the most casual observer that the Bears would better off without Peppers next year, despite the amount of money he ties up from a salary cap standpoint. Peppers is still effective and his team-high 11.5 sacks prove that.

With that in mind, the question now becomes whether the Bears need to prioritize finding another complement to Peppers, or if that player is already on the roster.

[+] EnlargeIsrael Idonije
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsWill Israel Idonije be back for a 10th season with the Bears?
The Bears have a decision to make regarding Israel Idonije, who is an unrestricted free agent again this offseason after signing a one-year, $2.5 million deal last March. Entering his 10th NFL season, Idonije had 7.5 sacks in 2012, the second-highest total of his career, even though he bounced inside to defensive tackle in the nickel package as the season wore on.

Idonije, 32, also brings a certain amount of intangibles to the table that should not be overlooked. A former finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, he's spent nearly his entire professional career in Chicago, a community he has served well off the field through the various efforts of his successful charitable foundation. As is the case in most negotiations, it could come down to money. If Idonije fields longer and more lucrative offers in free agency, then perhaps he leaves. But if the Bears can somehow find a way to lock him up to a contract similar to the one he agreed to last offseason, it makes sense for the Bears to seriously consider bringing him back for at least one more season, especially when you consider how few impact veteran pass rushers are expected to be available in free agency.

Regardless of what happens with Idonije, fourth-year defensive end Corey Wootton is coming off a breakout season and should be in a position to challenge for a full-time starting job, depending on what the club does in free agency. As we noted last month, Wootton (7.0 sacks) earned a significant raise for next year based on his play and the defense's overall performance.

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