The Bears retained a veteran defensive presence in Jeremiah Ratliff.
Ratliff, 32, inked a reported two-year, $4 million deal, which includes $600,000 in guaranteed money with the Bears late Wednesday.
“I didn’t want to go to free agency,” Ratliff told the Chicago Tribune. “I didn’t want to get to know another ballclub, coaches, players, another scheme. I liked what I saw in Chicago and I believe we have a chance to win. That is where I want to take my shot.”
Bears general manager Phil Emery made it clear that Ratliff was among a group of veteran free-agents that the team was looking to offer contracts to this off-season. He is the tenth Bear who has re-signed with the team, the most of any NFL team so far. Free agency officially opens March 11th.
The 6-foot-4, 293 pound Ratliff latched on with the Bears on Nov. 2. With Henry Melton and Nate Collins both lost for the season with their respective torn ACL's and Stephen Paea battling turf toe, the team was desperate to add a solid presence in the middle of the line.
Ratliff hadn't played in an NFL game in over a year, but made his debut with the Bears against the Vikings in Week 13, three weeks after signing and fully getting back into shape.
The Auburn product appeared in five games overall in 2013, making four starts, while playing 210 snaps. He added 14.5 tackles, five quarterback pressures and 1.5 sacks.
The four-time Pro Bowler (2008-11) provided a spark for a struggling defense and made things easier for out of position lineman Corey Wootton and aging defensive end Julius Peppers.
Ratliff's biggest game of the year came against his former team of eight years, the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14. He made his presence felt on Monday Night Football, adding a sack and three tackles in a 45-28 win.
Against Cleveland a week later, he combined for two tackles, one stuff and three quarterback hits. He racked up three tackles in the final two games of the season.
Prior to joining the Bears, Ratliff appeared 104 games, making 85 starts making 158 tackles, 27 sacks, 13 fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles.
The re-signing of Ratliff not only adds a solid body to the line, but it also makes things easier for a team that is looking to add plenty of talent on defense via free agency and the draft.
It certainly helped that his former defensive line coach in Dallas (2010) Paul Pasqualoni was hired to the same position by the Bears this off-season.
Ratliff said before the end of last season that he wanted to end his career with the Bears, according to the Chicago Tribune and the Pasqualoni hiring could have been the icing the cake.
"He coaches everyone the same. He believes in doing things the right way at all times," Ratliff said about Pasqualoni. "No excuses. That’s just the way it has to be done.”
Like mentioned above, Ratliff joins quarterback Jay Cutler, center Roberto Garza, kicker Robbie Gould, cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden, Tim Jennings and Derrick Martin, tight end Dante Rosario, guard Matt Slauson and fullback Tony Fiammetta as the 10 unrestricted free agents re-signed this off-season.
Ratliff and Paea are the only defensive tackles currently under contract for 2014. Collins and Melton could both be re-signed as well if they prove to be 100 percent healthy.
Thoughts on the move? What else would you like to see the Bears do this off-season either via free agency or the draft?
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