Will DL Israel Idonije be back in the windy city in 2013? (Photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack, AP)
The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft starts Thursday night. The Chicago Bears have many needs heading into the draft among them is along the defensive line.
At 6’6″, 275 lbs Idonije is a versatile player who would provide a spark on the inside or outside of the Bears’ defensive line.
He was used exclusively as a defensive tackle from 2004 until 2010 while only making 10 starts.
He has made 50 starts in nine seasons recording 196 tackles, 28.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. 20.5 of his sacks have come at the defensive end position.
Behind starters Corey Wootton and Julius Peppers at defensive end, the Bears have Shea McClellin, Kyle Moore, Turk McBride and Cheta Ozougwu.
McClellin is entering his second season and will be looking to be more than a situational pass rusher. He was ranked as the worst Bears’ defensive lineman in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus.
Kyle Moore and Turk McBride were both inked to one-year deals for the veteran minimum ($715,000) this off-season. Ozougwu was a standout player during the 2012 preseason, but only appeared in two games a season ago.
The Bears are likely trying to ink Idonije to a one-year deal that isn’t worth much more than the veteran minimum. I’d say in the range of $1 to $1.5 million.
At defensive tackle Henry Melton and Stephen Paea are penciled in as the starters, but behind them are inexperienced players in Nate Collins and Andre Fluellen.
Collins flashed potential a season ago, but he and Fluellen shouldn’t be expected to be anything more than rotational guys.
Bringing back Idonije makes too much sense for the Bears. He can play any position along the defensive line, he has been productive and has been healthy throughout his career.
The market is quiet for these veteran players because many teams like the Bears are working with a small amount of money since their isn’t much salary cap room available.
The Bears will probably use one of their five draft picks on a defensive tackle if Idonije isn’t signed before the weekend. If that does indeed happen it looks more and more unlikely that Idonije will be back in the windy city for the 2013 NFL season.
The Bears could be waiting until after the draft to try and drive Idonije’s price down a bit, but I don’t think that would be wise. Idonije might not have many options considering the teams (San Francisco 49ers , Tennessee Titans) that expressed interest in him early in free agency haven’t offered him deals.
The Bears have some leverage considering they’re the only team that has offered Idonije a contract.
Another option for the Bears would be to re-sign DT Amobi Okoye. The former first round pick by the Houston Texans in 2007 recorded 4.0 sacks in 2011 with the Bears. However last season he recorded just one sack and was only active for nine games.
The Bears certainly have to consider all their options at this point. They would be wise to bring back Israel Idonije considering how valuable he is to their defense.