Free agency still has to play out for the Bears and their own defensive tackles like Jeremiah Ratliff, Henry Melton and Nate Collins. But it is a position of obvious need for the Bears, both because of the last season’s problems and for a sheer lack of bodies under contract.
Even if the Bears do re-sign one or two of their own — they are unlikely to have all three of those tackles in camp next July — they are expected to move aggressively after defensive linemen, especially a disruptive tackle for the linchpin three-technique spot.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said there's one defensive tackle who, if available at No. 14, would send the Bears into a victory dance: Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan.
“I think Jernigan is a guy that, if he was sitting there when the Bears are on the board at 14, I think you’d sprint to the podium,” Mayock said.
The question for the Bears is part player, part scheme. They have been a single-gap, attacking defensive line, meaning that Jernigan at 298 pounds projects as a better fit than massive Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III. The Bears have been clear about remaining a 4-3 base defense with variations, and a mammoth tackle in the middle does not project as a fit for a defense that wants to attack and score.
“The defensive tackles are kind of a mixed bag,” Mayock said. “My top two guys — Nix and Jernigan — couldn’t be more different. Nix is a prototypical nose tackle; Jernigan is probably more that three-technique.
“I think Jernigan can step in and be special early. I think Nix is a little different kind of player; he’s a 330-pound nose.”