With only injury-prone Stephen Paea on the roster at DT, the Bears need to look anywhere they can for affordable help at the position. None of the players below will be cheap, but with teams finally shying away from giving big money to older players, the Bears may be able to finagle a good value signing on an older DT with a few good years left.
Darnell Dockett – Cardinals (5.75M): He’s getting up there in age (32), but he made the Pro Bowl as an alternate this year, so he still has some gas in the tank. Back in 2010 Dockett was one of the NFL players who criticized Cutler for leaving the NFC championship game with a knee injury. His comment about Cutler not being allowed to shower with the team, might still be an issue for Jay. If so, I doubt Emery would risk a locker room disruption, but if not Dockett could give the Bears a solid presence in the middle while they groom a few younger players to take over the position.
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Ahtyba Rubin – Browns (8M): At 6’3, 330 Rubin is a massive run-stuffer that would help keep blockers off the Bears LBs and fill the gaping hole in the middle of the Bears defense. Rubin has pretty good quickness for a man his size and can occasionally pressure the QB up the middle (10 sacks over last 3 seasons). He will probably be asking for more money than the Bears can afford, but he’s only 27 and might be worth a multi-year investment that would allow the Bears to defer some money till later in the deal.
Barry Cofield – Redskins (7.6M): The Northwestern grad had the best season of his career in 2013 finishing with a respectable 9.5 grade from PFF and was credited with 29 QB hurries (9th in the league for DTs). He’s just mediocre against the run, but provides consistent pressure up the middle and would be an upgrade over anyone that played DT for the Bears last season unless Melton can revert to his 2012 form. He’s only 29 so a multi-year deal is a possibility.
Phil Emery has stated that he wants the Bears defense to get younger and I’m sure they will, but signing 1 older guy with proven pass rush skills would give some of the Bears younger players more time to develop and an experienced mentor to learn from.
DeMarcus Ware – Cowboys (12.25M): He’s not willing to take a pay cut in Dallas and they are 22 million over the cap, so that creates a bit of a problem. Ware is in his 30s now, he missed a few games due to injury last season, and his numbers dipped (6 sacks) in 2013, so maybe his price drops enough to interest the Bears. It’s a long shot, but depending on what the market looks like and if they cut Peppers, who knows. Ware’s talent and explosive pass rushing ability is exactly what the Bears need, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.
DE Jason Babin – Jags (6M): He’s old (32) and two seasons removed from his last double-digit sack year (18 in 2011) but he did have 8 sacks last year and finished 6th among DEs with 17 QB hits (more than any Bear). Babin might make sense as a 1-2 year stop-gap while the Bears young DEs develop.
DE Osi Umenyiora – Flacons (4.75M): Had a pretty good year on a terrible Falcons team with 47 tackles and 7.5 sacks. I’d be a little surprised if they let him go just a year after signing him. The Falcons just released Asante Samuel and Stephen Nicholas to free up cap space, so I’m guessing they will hold on to him. If they don’t, the Bears should at least make an inquiry.
The Bears moved Shea McClellin to OLB and are rumored to be doing the same with Jon Bostic. If that happens, then they are probably set at the position with Briggs and Khaseem Greene already under contract. If not, they need at least one more OLB. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Bears bring in a staring caliber outside backer via either free agency or the draft or at least add a solid veteran to push McClellin & Greene.
LB Chad Greenway – Vikings (6.5M): Had a terrible 2013 (2nd worst 4-3 OLB according to PFF) but was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2012. Is Greenway done at 31 years old? Seems unlikely to me and his down year could lower the price enough for the Bears to make a play for similar money as they gave DJ Williams and James Anderson last year. Low risk, high reward signing, if Greenway reverts to his Pro Bowl 2012 form.
Thomas Davis – Panthers (5.8M) – Had a career year (105 tackles) in 2013 as part of arguably the best front 7 in football. That could escalate his price well out of the Bears range, but OLBs have been cheap in free agency the last two years and Davis is young enough (30) that a multi-year deal with some of the money deferred might make sense.