Monday, April 25, 2011
Posted: 12:14 p.m.
By John Mullin
First in a series
Very few teams have the distinction of Pro Bowl linebackers playing side by side in their defense. The Bears have that in Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. What they have at the other linebacker spot, however, is less distinguished or settled going into this years draft.
Briggs, Urlacher and Hunter Hillenmeyer gave the Bears a bedrock linebacker corps through much of the decade. But injuries gradually slowed Hillenmeyer until concussions in the 2010 preseason all but ended his career.
Nick Roach and Pisa Tinoisamoa combined over the last two seasons to give the Bears solid replacements for Hillenmeyer. But both of them had knee issues and have not settled the position the way Hillenmeyer did.
Brian Iwuh at 6-0, 239 pounds played well in limited opportunities and is an ideal roster fit with his special-teams prowess. Rod Wilson has worked passably as a backup but didnt secure a spot with his opportunities and will be 30.
A complicating element in the overall is that the Bears have major money tied up in Briggs and Urlacher and both are 30-plus. The nature of the cap is that the organization cannot afford to lavish another huge contract on the position group, particularly at the one spot that is frequently a two-down player.
Need: The roster is too thin at linebacker. Roach is a longshot to be back and Tinoisamoa missed four games with injury down the late-season stretch. The position will be addressed but not before the middle rounds of the draft unless a gem falls to the Bears in the second or third.
The 2011 draft
Von Miller from Texas A&M is one of the single highest-graded player in the entire draft and will not last past the first five picks, more likely the first three. The situation after that takes on an interesting dimension, because the proliferation of 3-4 defenses has more teams looking for one type of linebacker, primarily a pass rusherhybrid defensive end. The Bears are set in their 4-3 scheme and looking in an entirely different direction.
The 3-4 teams are helping us with our linebackers, said GM Jerry Angelo. Probably the guys we like are not onhalf the boards in the league, and that will help us. Like in the old days, 3-4 teams could get their pass rushers in the fifth, sixth round, and sometimes in free agency, because nobody was playing that scheme. In part, it's helped us defensively, I think there are more linebackers for us, that we can get later, if we choose to go in that direction, and even in free agency.
From my vantage point, that's probably the most fertile position on the board for us, in the mid to later rounds and free agency. We'll be able to find players to come in here with the traits that we're looking for.
The Best Bets:
(Again leaving out the very obvious elite, in Von Miller since he will have no relevance in the Bears draft.)
1. Martez Wilson, Illinois His Combine raised his stock appreciably and if he somehow lasts until the Bears turn in the second round, this could be a surprise pick as the best-available and possible successor to Urlacher.
2. Bruce Carter, North Carolina Another potentially excellent fit in a 4-3 but an ACL problem cost him the Combine and he comes with health risks. Like Urlacher, a converted safety.
3. Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina Has played both outside and inside and may be a better fit at MLB. Overshadowed by some teammates but from a very solid program.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.