After Allen, NFL Draft still begins with 'D' for the Bears

After Allen, NFL Draft still begins with 'D' for the Bears
March 26, 2014, 5:15 pm
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The Bears defense has seemingly gotten better with Phil Emery's free agency moves, but it hasn't necessarily gotten younger.

Wednesday morning's wakeup call involving the signing of 32-year-old Jared Allen makes him the sixth projected defensive starter 30 or older. Lance Briggs is 33 (34 in November) heading into the final year of his contract. Charles Tillman recently turned 33, the same age Jeremiah Ratliff will be when the regular season kicks off. Middle linebacker D.J. Williams turns 32 just before training camp begins, while Tim Jennings turned 30 in December. Throw 33 year-old Israel Idonije (also turning 34 in November) into the defensive line rotation, and backup corner/nickel back Kelvin Hayden (31 at the start of camp), and the general manager still has some work to do making this defense better for the long run. Even newly-signed Willie Young turns 29 in September.

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There are still glaring needs on that side of the ball for a difference-making safety, despite the competition set up between Ryan Mundy, Chris Conte, M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray. That could very well be Emery's focus now with the 14th selection. Besides Ratliff (and, at times, Idonije), the tackle position includes Nate Collins and Stephen Paea (both 26), ready for battle, but is either a long-term answer to provide a consistent push for years to come? There will be options with the 14th pick, and on Day 2, as well. Then there's the age factor at cornerback, with Isaiah Frey seemingly the only legitimate under-30 option on the roster right now.

At linebacker, the Jonathan Bostic-Shea McClellin-Khaseem Greene battle for playing time could give the personnel department a better idea how much that becomes a need down the road after Briggs and Williams provide the veteran stability, if healthy, for at least one more season.

[MORE — Total makeover: Jared Allen signing gives Bears draft flexibility]

The offensive side has less pressing needs, which become needs by the "one play away" rule with a desire for backups at tight end, running back, center and quarterback. A pick or two could conceivably be spent among those positions. Make no mistake, Emery has morphed the defense into a deeper, more athletic, more versatile one than what we painfully watched the final half of last season. But there are younger, longer-term options with which Emery could — and should — shore up the second weekend of May.