NFC North: Jeremy Mincey

Amobi Okoye was the Chicago Bears' top reserve defensive lineman in 2011, recording four sacks and providing an active presence with enough versatility to swing between tackle and end. His one-year agreement with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the weekend suggests he had few, if any, opportunities for a bigger role.

So I don't want to say his departure leaves the Bears flummoxed. But when you combine it with their release of defensive tackle Anthony Adams over the winter, you can at least say the Bears will have some new faces in their 2012 rotation.

The question is where it will come from.

When you look at the chart, you see that the Bears essentially used three players at defensive end in 2011: Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije and Okoye. They split time at defensive tackle among Henry Melton, Matt Toeaina, Stephen Paea, Adams and Okoye.

Subtract Okoye and Adams from that list, and you're looking at a defensive line rotation that, at least for the moment, stands at five incumbents. No matter how much confidence the Bears have in their existing personnel, you would think they'll need a significant addition or unprojected progress from a reserve such as Corey Wootton to round out this group.

The Bears appear to agree, having aggressively pursued free agent Jeremy Mincey last month before he returned to the Jacksonville Jaguars. It's fair to say that, given a choice, the Bears wouldn't prefer to have their starting defensive ends playing an average of four out of every five plays -- especially when one of them is 32 (Peppers) and the other is Idonije, who is probably best suited for the kind of swing role Okoye served in last season.

At this point, however, the free-agent market is largely picked clean of impact defensive linemen. So while we've spent plenty of time discussing the Bears' apparent needs at offensive line and receiver, you wonder if they won't target a defensive lineman in the opening rounds of the draft.

That's why ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Insider had the Bears selecting Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus with the No. 19 overall pick in his most recent mock draft. Stay tuned.

We're Black and Blue All Over:

The Chicago Bears were rumored to be considering a run at free agent defensive end Mario Williams. They ultimately pushed hard to sign free agent Jeremy Mincey, who returned to the Jacksonville Jaguars. So on Thursday evening, they agreed to terms with incumbent Israel Idonije on a one-year deal.

The question is whether the Bears intend for Idonije to resume his full-time role, or if their pursuit of Mincey (and possibly others) indicate they will continue searching for another starting option. The Bears don't have much depth at the position, which is why they were forced to play Idonije -- a longtime reserve/swing lineman -- on 84.4 percent of their defensive spans last season.

Continuing around the NFC North:
For two days earlier this week, we debated whether the Chicago Bears should prioritize receiver or make a run at defensive end Mario Williams when the free-agent market opened. Ultimately, their first move was to acquire receiver Brandon Marshall from the Miami Dolphins.

It's uncertain whether they also reached out to Williams, but we just learned his price tag. After a three-day visit to the Buffalo Bills, Williams signed a six-year, $100 million contract that includes $50 million guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The Bears did make a hard run at Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey, but Mincey signed a four-year deal to remain with the Jaguars. Their 2011 starter, Israel Idonije, remains unsigned.

Most people would agree that Marshall will improve the Bears' offense. But let's just say there are just as many people who are thrilled Williams didn't join him. Here's what Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers tweeted upon learning the news: "Congrats to Mario Williams signing in buffalo... far away from the NFC north, thanks big guy"

*UPDATE: Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford re-tweeted Rodgers' thought and added an appropriate "Ditto."

(The Bears are) Black and Blue All Over:

Many of us were scratching our heads Tuesday upon learning the terms of the Chicago Bears' trade/heist with the Miami Dolphins for Brandon Marshall, one of the NFL's best receivers. Why was Marshall available for a third-round draft pick in 2012 and another in 2013?

A possible explanation emerged overnight, and it's big enough to devote a separate version of BBAO to the Bears. According to the New York Post, Marshall -- who has a history of off-field incidents -- allegedly was involved in a fight outside a New York City nightclub Sunday night. The Post said Marshall hit a woman in the face, causing a black eye, but it wasn't clear if he was intending to punch her or missed another antagonist.

Marshall's attorney released a statement saying Marshall was not involved but that his wife had been hit and was injured seriously enough to require hospitalization.

It's not clear if the Dolphins knew about the incident before Tuesday's trade, or if the Bears did, and whether that will matter going forward. Like all players, Marshall will be subject to an NFL review and could face discipline from commissioner Roger Goodell.

There are two sides to every story, and normally we don't get all worked up about a nightclub fight. But Marshall has a history of fighting and domestic incidents, including with his current wife, and it doesn't bode well for his progress to hear another incident might have occurred just three days ago. It could impact his standing with the NFL, in terms of the personal conduct policy, among other things. Stay tuned.

Let's hit some local coverage of the Bears. I'll have a separate BBAO on the rest of the NFC North in a bit.
  • The Bears had been "inarguably shortsighted" in surrounding quarterback Jay Cutler with weapons in his first three seasons in Chicago, writes Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com.
  • Marshall posted a "photo" of him in a Bears uniform on Twitter late Tuesday night.
  • Cutler re-tweeted the photo and wrote: "Told you we could get that #15 out of storage. Getting the band back together! Good to have #15 back."
  • Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune writes on the pros and cons of Marshall's arrival.
  • David Haugh of the Tribune on new Bears general manager Phil Emery: "This is when it truly hits Bears fans that there is a new guy calling the shots at Halas Hall."
  • The Bears are still seeking help at defensive end, writes Pompei, after failing to lure Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey.
  • Cornerback Kelvin Hayden will visit with the Bears on Wednesday, reports ESPN's Josina Anderson.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider