Bears adding Ratliff sends multiple messages

Bears adding Ratliff sends multiple messages
November 2, 2013, 7:45 pm
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The Bears sent a number of signals late Saturday when they agreed on a one-year contract (at this point basically a half-year deal) with four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, late of the Dallas Cowboys.

[MORE: Bears ink Ratliff to deal]

The news was first reported by Ed Werder at ESPN.

The move comes with effectively zero downside and sends a clear statement that the Bears are intent on winning this season, not simply playing out the hand they’ve been given and start a rebuilding next year. That roster reshaping may indeed happen, but GM Phil Emery is not keeping his salary cap powder dry and is pulling levers to give his coaching staff some much-needed help.

He becomes the second Dallas defensive tackle heading to Chicago in a little more than a month. The Bears signed Landon Cohen on Sept. 27, had him in the lineup two days later and started him at nose tackle vs. the New York Giants.

[BODEN: Ratliff worth the gamble for Bears]

Ratliff, 32, will not be playing anywhere near that soon. He has not played since last November because of an injury in the lower abdominal area. He and the Cowboys gave differing accounts of the injury; he was slowed by a hamstring injury during training camp; and they released him on Oct. 16.

Planning a big finish

Ratliff will have no immediate impact given that he is not expected to be medically ready for at least another two weeks. And whether he projects with the Bears beyond this season is pure conjecture at this point. Ratliff also was arrested for drunk driving in January, with a trial scheduled for February.

Signing Ratliff, who reportedly was under consideration by the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs, adds a third key player to the “holding pattern” that the Bears are in roster-wise. Quarterback Jay Cutler is out anywhere from two to four weeks with a torn groin and linebacker Lance Briggs is down for an estimated six weeks with a fractured shoulder.

[MORE: Bears expected to start rookie linebacker Greene against Packers]

The Bears host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Dec. 9, which will be Game 12 of this season. Before that, they need to deal with Green Bay, Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis and Minnesota. Whichever game sees Ratliff in a Bears uniform remains to play out medically, as it is with Briggs and Cutler, and the Bears cannot fall too far from the 4-3 mark they hold now and have Ratliff’s debut matter.

End games

One clear conclusion is that the assessment of the defensive line is that it will take more than just work on fundamentals and techniques and gap-integrity to perform at a playoff level, which the unit has not to this point.

The season-ending injuries to tackles Nate Collins and Henry Melton devastated not only the interior, but also weakened an already marginal pass rush by forcing the move of Corey Wootton inside.

The organization may be insisting that Shea McClellin is a developing force as a starting defensive end, but adding Ratliff suggests that McClellin and David Bass are not answers to what the pass rush lost with Wootton at three-technique.