It didn't take Phil Emery a week. Less than a week after he and the whole of the Chicago Bears organization saluted and celebrated the career of Brian Urlacher in a lengthy press release, the GM has reloaded the club's trademark strength and added a pair of veteran linebackers in free agency.
DJ Williams will "replace" Urlacher in the middle of the defense. Williams, coming off a season where PEDs and team suspension kept him off the field for more than half the year, possesses tremendous athleticism and speed. As we enter what will hopefully be the twilight of the read-option in the NFL, Williams' ability to go sideline-to-sideline will be pivotal in limiting the kind of success Russell Wilson had the end of Bears v Seahawks in December. (I'm still haunted by that half hour. It seemed to be three days long.) Even if the Bears brought Urlacher back into the fray in 2013 there was no way they could rely on his knees to hold up against this new generation of speedy quarterback.
Can Williams keep his head on straight? That is the bigger question.
James Anderson missed time in 2012, as well, but his absence was due to injury not the intake of enhancement drugs. From Brad Biggs:
Anderson, 29, finished sixth in the NFL in tackles in 2011 with 145 and was a cap casualty in Carolina earlier this month, two years after he signed a five-year, $22 million contract with $8.5 million guaranteed. He set a Panthers record with 20 tackles in a game against the Giants last season and holds the team record with 94 games played at linebacker. Of his 53 starts, 44 came on the strong side.
"I am just reaching my peak right now," Anderson said. "I am definitely still in my prime. This is the best I have felt at this point in the offseason in years. I feel like I am on my way up."
Anderson, 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, was hampered by shoulder and back injuries last year and missed the final four games.
"I had a chance to have some time off and all is well, all is healed up," he said. "I had some tightness and some other issues with the lower back, but it was nothing that is going to be an issue going forward. I feel great."
Anderson will replace Nick Roach on the strong side.
These two signings only slightly alter Emery's approach to the position in the draft, however. Both Williams and Anderson are one-year rentals in the middle of the defense and Emery must get the Bears younger at the position. What the signings afford him is the ability to attack the LB position at his own discretion. He does not need to draft a starter in 2013. He would like to draft one for 2014.