For his part, Anthony Adams isn't too worried about the NFL lockout. He's got bigger fish to fry.
"My baby is due any day," Adams recently told the Chicago Sun Times.
Yet surely the Chicago Bears' front office is doing its due diligence in considering whether to re-sign the team's starting nose tackle. Adams has spent the last four seasons in the navy and orange, starting each game the past two years. During that two-year span as a starter, he has racked up 81 tackles, four sacks, two deflected passes and two forced fumbles.
Typically, numbers like that from a defensive tackle don't warrant the interest Adams (6-1, 310) is likely to receive from many NFL teams once the lockout is lifted. Yet the nose tackle isn't the type of playmaker you'll see in highlight reels and on the stat sheet. His job is to do the dirty work in the trenches, occupying space and blockers.
It's a fundamental concept in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. The big guy in the middle needs to hold his ground and force double teams. He needs to eat up linemen so they can't reach the next level and clear out linebackers. He needs to be a brick wall, not allowing any room for backs to run through.
It's as glorious a job as a ditch digger, but to most NFL teams, it's as important as a heart surgeon.
Brian Urlacher's game is dependent upon his ability to roam the field sideline to sideline. Taking on blockers is not his strong suit. With Adams in the middle, opposing offenses are typically forced to double down on the former Penn State product, which doesn't allow the interior blockers to peel off and lock up Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Thus, Adams is as crucial a cog for the run defense as any player on the team.
DT Anthony Adams
Urlacher is well aware of what could happen if Adams chooses to sign elsewhere.
"Double A, Anthony Adams, is a great player," Urlacher recently said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "He's always in his gap, he's always up the field making plays, and he's a great teammate."
Adams is known as one of the better locker-room presences in the league. He was recently awarded the team's Ed Block Courage Award, presented to one player on all 32 NFL teams who best exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage and serves as an inspiration in the locker room. The winners, who are selected by their teammates, are considered role models.
Both on and off the field, Adams performs at a high level. He's the type of player who cannot easily be replaced. The Bears tried to lock him down with a contract extension during last season but the organization low-balled him and Adams declined. Now the club will have to outbid the rest of the league for his services. Yet for Adams, Chicago is where he wants to stay.
"I love it here, man. Hopefully I am back here," Adams said. "But we just have to see what happens. Maybe they're thinking something else. I don't know. You never really do know, and I don't want to be naïve."
This looks like a situation where both parties are just waiting for the lockout to end so they can begin negotiations. It appears both sides are in agreement that Adams should stay in Chicago. Yet Bears brass need to make sure he's paid what the market demands. Players with size, strength and experience are few and far between. Couple that with his knowledge of the system – something doubly important this year due to the truncated offseason – and we have a player that should be at the top of the club's list of priorities once the work stoppage ends.
If the two sides can't agree on a contract, the team will still have some options. Matt Toeiana has played the position and could be able to fill in, although most likely at a lower level of production. Rookie Stephen Paea could also be asked to take over the nose, yet his inexperience may result in some serious growing pains that could affect the defense as a whole.
Considering the options, the best course of action is to bring Adams back in the fold and let the other pieces fall in place. If teams don't have to worry about the big guy in the middle, more attention can be placed on the defense's big-name playmakers like Urlacher, Briggs and Julius Peppers, thus compromising the effectiveness of the entire unit.
"We had something good going, so there's no sense in breaking that up because we all know how hard it is to get to the Super Bowl," said Adams.
He may not be the flashiest player on the defense but once the chaos of free agency ensues, the front office would be wise to remember that he's arguably the most important.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport com To read him every day, visit BearReport com and become a Chicago Bears insider