Linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher will be back. That's about it for depth at the position, as reserves Brian Iwuh and Rod Wilson are nothing more than special teams players. Hunter Hillenmeyer was just released and both Pisa Tinoisamoa and Nick Roach are free agents. All three play strong side linebacker, or SAM. Even though the Bears have two of the best in the game, linebacker is still a position the Bears need to address this off season.
Roach and Tinoisamoa have had their injury issues yet both are decent players. Chicago will most likely try and sign one of them, or pick up a veteran in free agency. They would also be wise to grab another developmental linebacker in the draft for depth, one who could be a starter down the line.
One such linebacker is Nevada's Dontay Moch. He played defensive end in college but he's projected to play OLB in the pros due to his blazing speed. Moch ran a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine. Did I mention he's 6-1 3/8, 248-pounds? His 40 time was the fastest ever by a defensive lineman.
Nevada LB Dontay Moch
Moch was the 2009 WAC Defensive Player of the Year and a member of the 2010 All-WAC First Team. His vertical jump was 42-inches and his broad jump was 10-8, both tops for defensive linemen. In other words, he's a freak. One can picture him flying sideline to sideline, taking down ball carriers with ease.
Because he played DE in college, he's probably better suited in a 3-4 scheme. Yet a guy with that type of athleticism could most likely be productive in any system.
Now the downside. At linebacker, Moch is about as raw as a sushi roll. He played rush end in college and was rarely asked do drop into coverage. At the East-West Shrine Game, he was weak against the run and had a hard time changing directions. His 21 bench reps at the combine are on the low side and he doesn't play with a lot of strength.
In essence, he's like any uber-talented athlete who needs to be taught his position. Defensive coordinators are surely salivating at the prospect of Moch eventually figuring out how to play outside linebacker. With his size and speed, he could be amazing. But he's a project, not someone who can come in and start right away. And no matter how good the coaching, he may never pan out -- see Vernon Gholston.
There may be a team out there that is so enamored by Moch's athleticism, they will reach for him in the second round. But it's just as likely he falls to the third or possibly fourth round. If Chicago addresses a few more-pressing needs in the first two rounds, and Moch is staring them in the face in the third, do they pull the trigger?
Jerry Angelo has best-player-available disease; it's known as the Dan Bazuin in some parts. To a fault, he will often draft talent over need. If he thinks Moch can develop into an NFL starter, it wouldn't surprise me to hear his name called in the third round. Moch could learn from the Pro Bowl linebackers in front of him and possibly take over at SAM in two-to-three years. At the very least, the Bears would be getting a very good special teams player, which Angelo covets.
Bears QB Caleb Hanie was given a low-level tender for 2011. The upcoming season will be his third in the NFL, so he is a fully restricted free agent. He'll play for Chicago next year to the tune of $1.2 million.
This should come as good news to Bears fans, who were impressed by his poise in nearly engineering a comeback in the NFC Championship. He would make a very good No. 2 QB but offensive coordinator Mike Martz likes his backups to have experience. There's a very good chance Chicago will pick up a veteran signal caller in free agency. Yet $1.2 million is fairly pricey for a third-stringer. If he can earn Martz's trust in training camp, Hanie should be the first name called if Jay Cutler has to come off the field.
Harris Says Goodbye
In a very classy move, recently released Tommie Harris took out a full-page ad in this morning's Chicago Tribune, thanking Bears fans for their support.
"Words cannot express my heartfelt appreciation for your support throughout my seven seasons with the Chicago Bears," the ad reads.
"From the moment I first stepped off the plane back in 2004, I have felt the warmth of your welcome. I have been embraced by this great city and have come to know it as my home. I consider myself as much as a Chicagoan as a Texan.
"I could have never asked for better teammates, better fans or a better city.
"So, thank you, Chicago. It's been a great run!"
Signed: Tommie Harris, The Real Deal.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.