2014 NFL Off-Season: Will James Anderson be back with the Bears?

2014 NFL Off-Season: Will James Anderson be back with the Bears?
Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune

This is the second part of an in-depth series that will examine the status of the top Chicago Bears free agents. The defense will be the focus in this second part.

The Bears have been busy as of late, signing ten of their own free agents since the end of the 2013 season, including center Roberto Garza, tight end Dante Rosario, cornerback Kelvin Hayden and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff all in the past week.

Last week, we took a look at middle linebacker D.J Williams' future in Chicago. Today, we examine the status of outside linebacker James Anderson moving forward.

Who: Outside linebacker James Anderson

2013 contract: one-year deal, $1.25 million

The 30-year-old Virgina Tech product signed with the Bears last off-season after Nick Roach left via free agency to the Oakland Raiders. Anderson spent his first seven NFL seasons with the Carolina Panthers, where he started 53 games, racking 100 plus tackles in two of those seasons.

Anderson earned the starting strongside linebacker gig next to Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams as rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene sat on the bench and developed.

But injuries to both Briggs and Williams forced Anderson into a bigger role than anticipated alongside Bostic and Greene. Although he led the team in tackles with 129.5, he struggled mightily against the run and didn't make many game-changing plays.

Of the five Bears, who started at linebacker in 2013, Anderson ended the season as the only player without an interception or forced fumble. He did however finish second on the team with a career-high four sacks as well as totaling 10 quarterback pressures.

With Shea McClellin making the transition to linebacker, likely at strongside and Jon Bostic competing for snaps there as well, Anderson might not be a part of the team's big picture in 2014.

Anderson has yet to be approached by the Bears about a new deal, according to ESPNChicago.com's Michael Wright.

Tim Tibesar took over for Reggie Herring as the Bears linebackers coach this off-season. Tibesar served in that capacity with Dallas (2008-10) and most recently with Houston (2011-13). Typically with a new coach brings a new attitude, so Anderson might not be valued highly by Tibesar and the Bears.

The Bears estimated salary cap space, according to Overthecap.com is $8,924,726. That cap number is before Ratliff's most recent deal signed late Wednesday and before the signing of defensive end Trevor Scott on Thursday.

For what its worth, Anderson is listed as the 16th best outside linebacker by Rotoworld.com.

Anderson was excited to sign with the Bears last March, saying then "you almost can't turn down" a chance to play in Chicago, but it seems at this point that he will be elsewhere next season.

On his Instagram account (@50janderson), he posted a picture at the gym with the caption: "Success is not for the weak and the uncommitted" #trainhardorgohome #workout#2.

Defensive tackle Henry Melton commented on the photo asking "Lmao who do u think u are?"

Why will he be back?

The Bears need depth at the linebacker position. That notion was made apparent last year with the amount of injuries that piled up and the inexperience at the position. A veteran presence is needed not only at middle linebacker, where Williams is likely to return, but also at strongside where plenty of competition will take place. The Bears are trying to get faster and stronger at every position on defense. If Anderson gets a phone call from the Bears it will likely be for a contract worth only the veteran minimum. He would likely be asked to play a similar role that Roach played on strongside for so many years, where he was counted upon in pass coverage more than against the run.

Why won't he be back?

1) Anderson hasn't been approached by the Bears this off-season, 2) Bears general manager Phil Emery hasn't brought up Anderson's name at all this off-season talking mostly about Bostic, Williams, Briggs and McClellin at the position, 3) Quite frankly he didn't live up to expectations filling the shoes of the ever so steady Roach. The 2006 third-round pick will be 31-years-old in September and it seems as if his market will be soft come free agency next Tuesday. The Bears would be better suited adding a veteran linebacker, who can play both middle and strongside linebacker. Anderson doesn't fit the bill and that seems to be the reason he isn't generating much interest from Emery and Co.

Up Next: Special teamers Blake Costanzo, Sherick McManis and Craig Steltz

 

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