Like the defensive lineman, the Bears have just two linebackers that will be finished with their contracts in early 2017. They are Sam Acho and Christian Jones.
Acho was on a one year deal in 2015. After a solid year, Chicago decided to bring him back on another one year deal for 2016. Once again, he has come to the end of a one-year deal and sits on the precipice of being re-signed or cast into free agency.
The nice thing about Acho is that he is consistent, level-headed and plays well. This season, he participated in 14 games with five starts. He comes into the lineup, fills in as needed and there isn’t a significant drop off in talent. He is productive and reliable. His value on special teams makes him an asset as well.
Locker room talk says Acho is a bit of a leader and you can’t have enough good leadership. His play on and off the field (he is a Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee) make him a valuable asset.
Christian Jones is going to be a restricted free agent coming off a deal that he signed as a rookie. Jones has had an interesting career with the Bears. He started five games as a rookie, 13 games in his second season and two games this year. After a promising college career experts thought he would not only be a starter in the league but a near Pro Bowl caliber player.
But issues with his play came up last season and soon we were finding out that the coaching staff was not too happy with him. He was relegated to back up duty but retained thanks to his value with depth and knowledge of the defense. Now, he stands ready to either come back with a new contract or leave the Bears following his first three years in the NFL.
What direction should the Bears go with Acho and Jones? I think it’s an easy decision with Acho. They should keep him at least one more season. His special teams and ability to step in and play in certain situations are very valuable. Jones could come back as a backup but only at the right price. Being a restricted free agent, it will be interesting to see if he garners any interest outside of Chicago.
Unless Chicago finds a better backup, at the right price, Jones could be retained one more season.