The Chicago Bears signed linebacker D.J. Williams last offseason shortly after parting ways with Brian Urlacher. Williams was coming off a 2012 campaign in Denver in which he was suspended twice, once for violating the league's substance abuse policy and again for incurring his second DUI.
Due to his off-field problems, the Broncos chose not to re-sign Williams. Yet Bears GM Phil Emery was willing to give the veteran another chance, inking him to a one-year deal. Williams missed almost all of training camp with a calf injury but was ready to go in Week 1.
He started the first six contests before a torn pectoral ended his season prematurely. Williams hits free agency on March 11. We weigh the pros and cons of re-signing the 10-year veteran.
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Williams played well before the injury. In five-plus contests, he tallied 27 tackles, which was fourth on the team at the time, as well as 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble. In no way did he replace Urlacher but Williams was very stout as a downhill linebacker and was very effective as a blitzer.
At the time of his injury, Chicago's defense ranked 13th in the league against the run. A month later, the Bears were dead last in the NFL stopping the run. The loss of Williams and his attacking style of football played a big part in that dramatic drop off.
Between 2004-2011, Williams had just two seasons in which he missed more than two games, so he doesn't have a significant history of injury.
He may have stayed healthy in the past but Williams was a brittle old man last year. The time off in 2012 obviously didn't do his body good and he was banged up from the moment the team put the pads on in training camp. He turns 32 in July and his body is showing signs of breaking down after 133 career games. He'll be an injury risk for the remainder of his career.
Hold ‘em or Fold ‘em?
The Bears don't have a lot of money to spend in free agency and Emery won't be able to make a big splash on the open market – particularly after investing two picks on linebackers in last year's draft. After missing 10 games with injury, on top of turning 32 in a few months, Williams can be signed at or near the veteran minimum.
If he gets hurt again, the team can insert Jon Bostic, who at that point should be better prepared for the big stage. Williams had a very positive impact for the Bears when on the field last season. He fills gaps against the run with power and he blitzed with intelligence. He's not great in coverage but he's not a liability either.
Williams provides veteran experience and strong run support, and he kept his nose clean last year. He'll come cheap and he won't be looking for a long-term deal. Bostic could use another year of seasoning, meaning Williams would be worth the risk for one more year both as a mentor to the kids and as a capable defender.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is entering his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. 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.