As Free Agency Approaches, In-House Questions at Defensive Tackle Might Be Answered First

| February 26th, 2014


I don’t think Josh McCown is going to sign a contract to be a backup quarterback anywhere else in the league. Rumors of his drawing interest from the Jets in New Jersey make little sense as McCown would struggle mightily to throw the ball in the swirling Meadowlands winds. (These winds are actually more difficult to throw in than those of Soldier Field.)

I think Phil Emery legitimately wants Charles Tillman to return to Chicago but wants him to do so on a team-friendly 1-2 year deal. But if rumors are true and Darrelle Revis may be dealt out of Tampa in the coming weeks, Tillman would make a lot of sense as a de facto coach for the Bucs, bringing his patented punch to a second state.

I think Pat Mannelly ends up coming back for a final season in Chicago and Roberto Garza ultimately does the same. But if the Bears end up giving Taylor Boggs a shot in the middle of the offensive line and bring in Jeremy Cain on a full-time basis, I think the difference will be negligible at best.

Are these important players at important positions? Sure. But they are not the types of decisions that make or break an NFL campaign. The decisions Emery makes at defensive tackle might be. And those decisions start at home.

The Bears don’t possess any professional defensive tackles. None. And before the Stephen Paea Tabernacle Choir begin serenading me with his potential, I’d like to point them to several years of invisible tape. (It just isn’t there.) Paea is the type of player fans defend until he leaves for another organization and then they – and the league – instantly forget about him.

Phil Emery needs defensive tackles…and ends…and corners…and safeties. But only one of those positions can be filled – at least from a depth perspective – with individuals from the 2013 Chicago Bears roster. Henry Melton (health considered), Jay Ratliff, Nate Collins and perhaps even Corey Wootton are more-than-able to be part of a successful rotation at the tackle spot.

Henry Melton has the most upside. At times he’s resembled the second-coming of Warren Sapp as an interior pass rushers and at other times he’s disappeared for quarters at a time. Couple that inconsistency with health and off-field concerns and the Bears are faced with far more risk this off-season than last when it comes to Melton.

Signing both Jay Ratliff and Nate Collins might give the Bears the ability to look for three-tech explosiveness in the first round of the draft. (Something they should do anyway.) Signing one or the other would leave the Bears susceptible once again to an injury hindering production from the entire position. When Emery is mentioning Sedrick Ellis in post-season pressers, it’s not a good thing.

Corey Wootton is versatile. He can play both on the outside and inside. But ask yourself this question: is his versatility enough to compensate for his lack of production? Sure, he can play both end and tackle but does he play either of them particularly well?

How Emery addresses these four players in the coming weeks will vastly determine the Bears outlook for the duration of the 2014 off-season – free agency, draft…etc. If Emery does not address them at all, the Bears may be in for an even more significant rebuild than fans originally expected.

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