Yet all of those players are journeymen on one-year deals and do not represent the future for Chicago's defensive line. Additionally, Henry Melton is playing under a one-year franchise tender and Julius Peppers' $18-million-plus contract next year may force the Bears to cut him. With last year's first-round pick Shea McClellin yet to show he's starter worthy, you see how tenuous things are along Chicago's D-line.
With that in mind, Bears brass will be considering early-round defensive tackles and defensive ends in this year's draft, looking for a young player that can serve as the team's foundation in the trenches going forward. One player who may fit that criteria is former UCLA defensive lineman Datone Jones.
Let's go to the film room to see if Jones, a first-round prospect, can fill Chicago's needs.
Height: 6-4 Weight: 283 Arms: 32 ¾ inches Hands: 10 inches
40-Yard Dash: 4.80 seconds Bench Press: 29 reps Vertical Jump: 31.5 inches Broad Jump: 112.0 inches 3-Cone Drill: 7.32 seconds 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.32 seconds (top performer)
No defensive lineman in this draft brings as much power off the ball as Jones. He has tremendous explosion at the snap and keeps his pads low to drive into opposing linemen. He's nearly impossible to move backward off the ball. He's also quick to get his hands off the ground , which allows him to violently punch the man across from him. Over and over on tape, Jones flies off the ball and rocks oppsoing blockers to their heels. He also uses his strong hands to fend off cut blocks.
His quick first step often allows him to get immediate penetration, where he's able to be disruptive in the backfield. On a number of plays, Jones is already two steps in the backfield as the running back takes the handoff.
Jones is also a playmaker as a pass rusher and has experience rushing from nearly every position along the defensive line. He has a powerful bull rush and is able to rip past offensive linemen once he has knocked them on their heels. With a full head of steam, he has the power and strength absolutely unload on opposing quarterbacks and ball carriers.
Jones uses great pad level but that often leads to him leaning over his toes, throwing him off balance. Blockers at the pro level will use that to their advantage, using his body weight to chuck him into the ground. Jones must learn to sink his hips and anchor.
His awareness against the run needs work, as he too often loses track of the ball. While his explosion allows him to get into the backfield, he has a tendency to lose control once he's there and can easily be beat by cut-back moves. In the open field, he must learn to break down better and stay in front of ball carriers.
Jones lacks a full pass-rush arsenal and is far too dependent on his bull rush. With his combination of power and quickness, developing a few more moves would do him wonders.
When locked up with opposing blockers, Jones struggles to disengage. He has a tendency to stop moving his feet after his initial burst and gives up on too many plays.
Jones burst on the scene his junior season, tallying 62 tackles, 19 for loss, and 6.5 sacks. He was also a standout at the Senior Bowl. He played both defensive tackle and end in UCLA's 3-4 scheme, yet he should have no problem switching to a 4-3 defense at either DT or DE.
The Bears have still not re-signed Isreal Idonije. The longer he stays a free agent the less likely he is to return to Chicago. It would be a big loss to the defense, as Idonije was the best run stopper on the team last year and was able to play both tackle and end.
Yet with Jones, the Bears could get a player similar to Idonije, only 10 years younger. Like Idonije, Jones has very good size and has room to add even more weight if asked to do so. And he's also positionally flexible, having played DT, NT and DE in college. In fact, Jones' burst off the ball and experience in the middle would make him a big asset in short-yardage situations, yet he's still quick enough to rush off the edge on third down. That type of versatility is rare.
Jones has a ton of potential and could end up being dominant at the next level. Yet he still lacks polish and must learn to play with a higher motor. Under the right coaching, Jones could be a Pro Bowler within a year or two.
He brings some risk but his size, athleticism and experience at multiple positions will be very attractive to the Bears in the first round. If Emery wants to solidify the defensive line and select a younger, stronger version of Idonije, then Jones is his man.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.