Okoye should be Bears' top priority

Amobi Okoye is receiving interest from a handful of teams around the league, yet he's still open to re-signing with the Bears. Chicago needs to up the ante and get him signed long term.

Last offseason, the Chicago Bears inked defensive tackle Amobi Okoye to a one-year deal. The former first-round pick – taken 10th overall in 2007 by the Texans – was dropped by Houston following the 2010 campaign.

To that point, Okoye's career had been slightly disappointing. He earned 5.5 sacks his rookie season but had just 5.5 the following three years combined. When Houston switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 before last season, Okoye was let go.

Chicago gave him $1.4 million on a one-year tryout last year. Okoye rotated at the team's 3-technique tackle spot with Henry Melton the entire season. Okoye earned 4.0 sacks, to go along with 27 total tackles – three more than Melton.

Melton and Okoye combined for 11.0 sacks, the largest total for a pair of Chicago defensive tackles since 1995. Both are undersized, one-gap penetrators that fit the Bears' scheme perfectly. Neither is tough against the run but both can be very disruptive in the middle as pass rushers.


DT Amobi Okoye
Richard Mackson/US Presswire

Okoye has drawn interest from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, all of whom use a 4-3 defense.

Additionally, Okoye has a visit lined up with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bears are comfortable with Matt Toeaina and Stephen Paea at nose guard. The club will keep Melton as the 3-tech starter but will need another rotational tackle. Okoye fits that role perfectly.

On film last year, Okoye showed great explosiveness off the ball. He has quick feet, active hands and good change-of-direction ability. He's a solid situational pass rusher.

Okoye lacks ideal upper body strength and has trouble disengaging from offensive linemen when attempting to stop the run. Bigger guards can engulf him.

But the Bears can look past his perceived weaknesses as long as he continues to apply pressure in the opposing quarterback's face. Which is why the team is still interested in re-signing him.

Yet Okoye is currently testing the market and there appears to be plenty of interest.

If Chicago can't re-sign him, the club will likely have to address the defensive tackle position in the draft. This isn't ideal, as nearly every other position on the current roster has bigger needs. The best scenario would be to get Okoye back in the fold and forego DT in the draft.

He's probably looking for a three- to four-year commitment at roughly $2.5 million per season. The Bears don't have a lot of cap space left but the money the organization saved as a result of Marion Barber's retirement allows them to make this move.

The Bears have serious needs at offensive guard, offensive tackle, wide receiver, defensive end, linebacker, cornerback and safety. The club doesn't need to be searching for help at defensive tackle as well.

Get Okoye back on board and move on.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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