Bears looking to keep LB Roach, but where?

Bears looking to keep LB Roach, but where?
February 23, 2013, 12:00 pm
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INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL Scouting Combine may be about testing and evaluating college prospects for future roster fits, but the Bears also are addressing their current roster, stepping up talks with linebacker Nick Roach on Saturday as the start of free agency looms.

[Related: O-lining: Bears questions involve more than draft and free agency]

What was not immediately clear, however, was whether the Bears are talking to him as a middle or outside linebacker. With Urlacher also coming into unrestricted free agency and teams being able to talk to other teams’ free agents on Mar. 9 and sign them on Mar. 12, the Bears have decisions to make.

Roach played the first 12 games of last season at strong-side linebacker, then slid over to middle linebacker for the final four -- after Brian Urlacher’s hamstring injury vs. Seattle. He has missed just three games over the last five seasons and finished sixth on the team in tackles with 84.

The underlying question is whether Roach’s future, assuming it is in Chicago, is alongside Brian Urlacher, or possibly in place of him.

Roach started three games at middle linebacker in 2009 after Urlacher suffered a season-ending wrist injury. Hunter Hillenmeyer was then shifted to the middle and Roach back to the strong side for the remainder of the season.

[Related: No "umbrella" around McClellin: Bears not ruling out LB]

But with Urlacher still recovering from offseason knee surgery last year, Roach played MLB through most of training camp and preseason. In the final four games Roach was credited with 41 tackles, second only to Briggs’ 43.