A year after Israel Idonije left the Bears for the Detroit Lions, the all-purpose defensive lineman is back with the Bears under a one-year contract, a situation that casts serious doubt over the return of Corey Wootton following the latter’s offseason surgery.
Indeed, a little over a week ago Wootton tweeted via @CoreyWootton: “Crazy to think yesterday might be the last time I ever set foot in halas hall.”
Idonije lost his starting left defensive end job to Wootton midway through the 2012 season, a breakout year for Wootton with 7 sacks in spite of not starting the whole year. Idonije finished that year with 7.5 sacks.
The defensive end room now shows Idonije, David Bass, Lamarr Houston, Austen Lane, Cheta Ozougwo, Trevor Scott, Cornelius Washington and Willie Young. Not all will be on the Opening Day, but the money invested in Houston and Young close doors for Wootton.
Idonije marks the 11th defensive player signed in just March alone, and there is still the draft to come in May. He also fits the versatility template being sought in multiple areas of the defense. Like Wootton, Idonije, 6-6, 275 pounds, was a successful fit moving inside to tackle when needed.
Idonije made the roster in 2004 and was a regular on special teams and progressively more at defensive end through 2012. He went to the Lions where he played in 15 games, all as a reserve, and finished with just 11 tackles and a half-sack.
He has started 50 of 149 games played, with 29 total sacks, 20.5 of those from 2010-12. He was the winner of the Bears’ Ed Block Courage Award in 2009 and one of three finalists for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2010.