Chicago Bears defensive tackles did not fare well last year. Henry Melton and Nate Collins spent most of the season on IR, Stephen Paea was hampered by a turf toe injury and Sedrick Ellis jumped ship before training camp began. In the second half of the season, the Bears rotated a host of no-name players at defensive tackle, including Zach Minter, Christian Tupou and Landen Cohen.
As a result, the defense finished last in the league against the run and in total sacks. Yet don't blame those late season struggles on Jeremiah Ratliff, who was the lone bright spot for the Bears in the final third of the season.
Ratliff played eight years in Dallas and was waived before the season due to a lingering groin injury. The former four-time Pro Bowler sat out three weeks before the Bears activated him in Week 13 against the Minnesota Vikings. Ratliff, who will soon hit free agency, played well in limited action last year but he turns 33 in August.
We weigh the pros and cons of re-signing the nine-year veteran.
The Cowboys' salary cap situation is a mess and the franchise was forced to cut Ratliff, who sat out the first 12 weeks of the campaign. Had he been healthy, it's unlikely Jerry Jones would have parted with one of his long-time defensive stalwarts.
In five contests for the Bears, Ratliff compiled nine tackles and 1.5 sacks. Extrapolate that over a 16-game season and he would have finished 2013 with roughly 28 tackles and 5.0 sacks. That's quality production for a No. 3 defensive tackle, one who also fared well against the run.
Ratliff's best days are behind him and at 33, he's nothing more than a short-term rental option. He hasn't played a full slate of games since 2011 and has just 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss the last two years combined. In addition, he hasn't forced a fumble since 2010. He's a declining player in the twilight of his career, one who hasn't been healthy in years.
Hold ‘em or Fold ‘em?
The Bears were happy with Ratliff's performance last season and they would like for him to return for at least one more year. He's played just 10 games the last two years combined, so it's tough to predict a full slate of games for him but Ratliff proved last year he has plenty left in the tank. Considering his lack of action the past two seasons, his legs might be a little fresher than a typical 33-year-old.
Ratliff has plenty of experience playing 3-technique and at 6-4, 303, he has enough size and strength to hold down the fort at nose tackle. The Bears rotated him at both positions last year.
Ratliff won't be making his fifth trip to the Pro Bowl in 2014 but as a rotational, multidimensional player, he's definitely worth a one-year deal. He'll likely come at the veteran minimum, making him a solid short-term option for a cash-strapped team like the Bears.
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.