The anticipated departure of defensive lineman Israel Idonije became official on Tuesday when Idonije became the latest NFC North player to “defect” to an archrival.
Idonije, 32, joins the Detroit Lions on a one-year contract after collecting 20.5 sacks over the last three seasons in which he started 42 of 48 games. Idonije started the first nine games at defensive left end before losing the job to an emerging Corey Wootton, then started two of the final three games at defensive tackle.
[RELATED: A pair of high-profile Bears left off NFL's Top 100 players]
The Bears had offered Idonije a one-year deal but in the range of the veteran minimum, a pattern that has played out for legions of vets this offseason in a time of a flat salary cap. Wotton and Shea McClellin have split time at left end and the Bears used a sixth-round draft choice on Cornelius Washington as well as signing former New Orleans Saint Turk McBride.
The Lions are without 2012 starters Cliff Avril (free agent to Seattle) and Kyle Vanden Bosch (released) but used their first-round draft pick (No. 5 overall) on BYU speed rusher Ziggy Ansah. Idonije’s ability to work effectively at tackle is expected to have him in nickel alignments behind Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh.
Going to the “enemy”
Idonije is not the first Bear to make a stop in Detroit after his time in Chicago. Receiver Rashied Davis (2011) and cornerback Nathan Vasher (2010) played for the Lions, as did cornerback R.W. McQuarters (2005).
Other NFC North veterans have opted to stay in the division and face their former teams.
[RELATED: Bears hire Tanney to ramp up player, scouting analytics]
Former Green Bay Packer wide receiver Greg Jennings is expected to be a centerpiece of the Minnesota offense after inking a five-year deal with the Vikings. Cornerback Jacob Lacey started nine games in 2012 with the Lions; he’ll play 2013 as a Viking.
Jennings will be joined in Minnesota by former Packers teammate Desmond Bishop after the linebacker, like Idonije, agreed to a one-year deal with the Vikings.
The Packers have been largely quiet in offseasons under GM Ted Thompson, although Green Bay was once a post-Chicago destination for myriad Bears: Steve McMichael, Jim McMahon, Jim Morrissey, Cedric Benson (after time in Cincinnati), among others.
He’ll have a battle to win a roster spot, but wide receiver Devin Aromashodu re-signed with the Bears this offseason following the last two years as a Viking.
Cornerback Zachary Bowman signed with Minnesota last offseason, then returned to the Bears after he was waived following training camp.
[MORE: Urlacher ready for a new chapter]
And while it never had real substance, the offseason buzz for a possible landing spot for linebacker Brian Urlacher was, of course, Minnesota.