The Chicago Bears parted ways with one of their top defensive linemen on Thursday.
34-year-old Jeremiah Ratliff was released after an "isolated incident" and then a verbal exchange with first-year general manager Ryan Pace on Wednesday at Halas Hall, per Sun-Times insider Adam Jahns. Seventh-year defensive lineman Ziggy Hood was signed in a corresponding move.
“We felt moving forward without Jeremiah was in the best interest of our team,” Pace said in a statement on Thursday. “We appreciate his contributions and wish him well. We are also excited to be able to add Ziggy Hood to our roster.”
The exchange got so heated that Ratliff had to be escorted off of the team's facilities as Lake Forest police were there to monitor the situation. Ratliff was set to be a free agent after the season. He signed a two-year, $3.75 million in 2014 after inking a one-year deal for the veteran minimum late in the 2013 season to join the Bears.
Ratliff was also escorted off the team's facility after he caused a disturbance last Dec. 26 at Marc Trestman's last practice as the head coach of the Bears, per Tribune's Rich Campbell.
After being suspended for the first three games this season for violating the league's substance policy, Ratliff had eight tackles in two starts over the last two games. In total, he recorded 54 tackles and eight sacks in 18 games with the Bears. He has 35 career sacks and made the Pro Bowl four straight years (2008-11) as a member of the Cowboys.
It's a rough departure for a veteran player, but it's clear that Ratliff wasn't part of the future plans under Pace and head coach John Fox. He doesn't have that much left in the tank, but still his release leaves the Bears awfully thin at defensive line. The move was made in order to keep the positivity and growth high under a new regime.
Off-season addition Jarvis Jenkins, rookie Eddie Goldman are the top two linemen with second-year man Will Sutton, Mitch Unrein, unknown Bruce Gaston and now Hood as the six linemen on the active roster. Jenkins leads the group with three sacks while Goldman has looked like a solid starter as a second-round selection.
Sutton is still recovering from an elbow injury and Unrein and Hood are back of the roster players. Gaston could emerge as a piece to hang onto after he had an impressive preseason with the Packers and didn't stick due to a numbers crunch.
As for the latest addition, Hood, he was released from injured reserve by Jacksonville on Tuesday after playing only one season of his four-year, $16 million deal he signed last free agency period. Originally a late first round pick by Pittsburgh in 2009, Hood has 46 starts, 164 tackles and 12.5 sacks to his name.
The Bears are very young at the position and it's definitely a spot to monitor in next year's draft. Ego Ferguson should return from his knee injury in time for next season, but who knows if he's a legitimate starter and how effective he'll be. The Bears also have Cornelius Washington on injured reserve.
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