With Henry Melton off to Dallas , the Bears have a glaring hole on their roster at the 3-technique DT position. They are in decent shape at the other DT spot (1-technique) with Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea, but only have Nate Collins at the 3-tech. It’s possible recently signed Israel Idonije could move inside to the 3-tech position on passing downs, but he has been a DE the last 4 years and is only 275 pounds, so I think that’s a long shot. Phil Emery identified the 3-technique spot as the “engine that drives the defense” so it is clearly an important position in the Bears scheme, if not the most important. Collins is a solid option with upside (only 26 years old), but he is coming off an ACL injury and has never played 16 games in a season in his brief three-year career. The Bears could get lucky and Collins could hold up all season, but judging by his recent history the odds are he’s going to miss at least a few games. The Bears saw first hand last year what can happen to the defense when the DTs don’t do their job, and hopefully the Bears learned their lesson and won’t put the team in the situation where they are pulling guys off the street like last year. Unfortunately Melton took so long to make his decision, that most of the quality free agent DTs have already signed with other teams. There are still a few decent DTs available who can rotate with Collins or at least provide solid depth. Here is a breakdown of best free agent defensive tackles available for the Bears scheme:
1.) Alex Carrington, Bills (26) – Carrington’s free agent situation is actually very similar to Melton’s in that he had a mini-breakout year in 2012 with an 8.7 grade from PFF which was the 16th best for DTs (Melton was 7th). The former 3rd round pick in 2010 out of Arkansas St was primed for a big year in 2013 but injured his quad in the 3rd week of the 2013 season and missed the rest of it. Carrington is tall for a DT (6’5) and lean (285) but has good speed and an explosive first step. In 2012 he provided consistent interior pressure for the Bills and PFF dubbed Carrington “one of the league’s most promising young pass-rushing DTs”. Carrington’s nickname is “Megahand” because he blocked 4 kicks in 2012. He has already been linked to the Raiders, Browns, Rams, and Steelers this off-season so the Bears will need to move quickly if they want to sign the best young DT left on the market.
2.) Corey Wooten (26) - In his first season as a DT, Wooten was the most consistent interior lineman the Bears had last season. He is undersized for the position, but also quicker than most DTs and was the only DT on the Bears roster who provided any interior pass rush. He seemed to wear down late in games, but was also playing more snaps than planned because the Bears had no one else. I was hoping for an upgrade over Wooten inside, but at this point he is one of the best options left and if he is used more sparingly next season I think he could be effective as a 3rd down pass-rush DT while also providing depth at DE if needed. As long as his price tag isn’t exorbitant it would make a lot of sense for the Bears to bring Wooten back.
3.) Kevin Williams, Vikings (33) – He’s old, but still effective. Williams isn’t the dynamic interior rusher he was in his prime, but he still showed flashes off his old dominance last year and finished with a 7.3 grade from PFF which was good for 27th among DTs and way higher than any Bears DT last season (Wooten 4.2). The Bears could keep Williams fresh by using him in a rotation and he might have one more good year left if used correctly.
4.) Peria Jerry, Falcons (29) – A former first round pick (24th) who has been a bust for the Falcons. Jerry has been a sporadic starter the last three seasons but has failed to grade positively since 2010. On a positive note, Jerry did have 5 sacks last year so he was able to provide an interior pass rush. His problem is verse the run where he hasn’t been very effective in his five-year career. Like most players on this list (except Carrington) he’s best suited for a reserve / rotation role. His run-stopping issue could be negated by using Jerry only on passing downs where he could use his explosive first step to generate pressure up the middle.
5.) Adam Carriker, Redskins (30) – Another former first round pick (13th overall) who was released by the Redskins since he has missed 46 games due to injuries in his seven-year career. Injuries have kept Carriker from ever reaching his potential and he should be available for the veteran minimum since he hasn’t played since week 2, 2011. Like Wooten, he’s better suited as a 3-4 DE but has the size to move inside (6’6, 296) and the quickness to be disruptive as a DT. As you can see by this list, there aren’t many viable DT options left, so the Bears need to get creative to find talent at the position. With all his injury issues, a rotational role might be the best use of Carriker’s talents and the Bears could use him in that capacity with Nate Collins (also injury prone) and whoever the Bears draft at the position (hopefully Donald!).