The emphasis on improving the Bears’ defense on the field took place on Tuesday, but off the field it could be a problem.
They reached an agreement with former San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald on a one-year, prove-it deal, according to general manager Ryan Pace. The move reunites McDonald with his defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who coached him from 2011-14.
Per a report from Sun-Times Bears insider Adam Jahns, McDonald flew on his own money to Chicago to meet the McCaskey family for over two hours.
The 30-year-old McDonald has been in trouble off the field over the past year starting in August when he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence after an argument with his then-pregnant fiance. Prosecutors did not file charges in that case, saying they couldn’t prove a crime occurred.
Then in December just hours after he was named as a suspect in another sexual assault investigation, San Francisco terminated his contract. The case remains open, but no charges have been filed.
However, McDonald filed a defamation lawsuit last Monday against the woman who accused him of sexual assaulting her at his San Jose home that night.
“Those things we’ve looked into,” Pace talked about McDonald’s issues off the field via the Tribune on Tuesday. “I can tell you this, we know those are ongoing. But we wouldn’t be where we’re at right now if we didn’t feel comfortable with where that’s at. So it’s been thorough.”
“A pattern of poor decision making” were the words San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke used at the time of McDonald’s release on Dec. 17.
McDonald also had a DUI back in June 2010, his fourth season in the league after being selected back in 2007 in the third round.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has said that for McDonald “the matter is under review” even though he hasn’t been charged with anything. He could see some discipline from his off the field issues.
The Florida product started 14 games, recording 26 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble last season. McDonald ranked 12th out of 47 qualified 3-4 defensive ends last season by Pro Football Focus.
He’s been a full-time starter since Fangio arrived in San Francisco in 2011, starting 59 games in that span and playing the third most snaps behind only linebacker Ahmad Brooks and defensive tackle Justin Smith.
McDonald generated 14.5 sacks and 112 tackles over the last four seasons as a starting defensive tackle. He made nine starts at defensive end in 2008 and served as a rotational player in 2007 and 2009-10, totaling five sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception in his first four seasons.
The addition of McDonald certainly came because Fangio was in town. McDonald has the ability to rush the pass rusher as a 3-4 base defensive end and a 4-3 sub defensive tackle. Jenkins also adds a run-stopping presence at defensive end, which helps shore up the position heading into the draft.
The Bears’ defense has improved, but Pace made a statement during his introduction press conference on January 9 that seems to contradict the signing of McDonald.
“We are not just collecting athletes,” Pace said during his intro presser. “We are acquiring football players that fit the Chicago Bears. There will be a major emphasis on character, toughness, instincts and intelligence.”
McDonald was well-respected by many of his teammates in San Francisco despite his troubles off the field in 2014, according to SFGate.com.
Many Bears fans will likely be confused by the subtraction of star wide receiver Brandon Marshall and the addition of a guy like McDonald.
Yes, Marshall was a great player on the field, but he grew out his welcome and was a distraction in the locker room.
McDonald has all the talent in the world even as he enters his age 31 season and he is locker room friendly. Obviously, his issues off the field and away from football have haunted him, but he has yet to be charged with his latest issue.
The Bears will certainly receive plenty of backlash from their own fans and the NFL media, but McDonald’s production on the field has been tremendous. He’ll be a huge lift to a new-look Bears’ defense.
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