The Chicago Bears signed outside linebacker Sam Acho last off-season after he spent his first four years in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals.
Acho, a former 2012 4th-round pick out of Texas, had 7.0 sacks his rookie season but his pass-rush prowess dropped off the next three years, during which he totaled just 6.0 sacks. He played 16 games for the Cardinals in 2014 and had just 1.0 sack, so the Bears were aware of the player they were signing: a smart, strong, run-stopping outside linebacker who offers little on passing downs.
Not surprisingly, Acho played 15 games for the Bears in 2015 and did not have a single sack. As such, most assume he won't be re-signed once he becomes a free agent on March 9.
Yet those folks are discounting Acho's strengths against the run.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is no idiot. He's been coaching in the NFL since 1984 and was in charge of the best defense in the NFL from 2011-2014 with the San Francisco 49ers.
So when Fangio continued to send Acho on the field each week, typically in run-heavy situations, it signified his confidence in Acho's ability to stymie opposing rushing attacks. Last year, Acho played 457 total snaps, with 252 snaps against the run - the most of any outside linebacker on the team.
Acho is a quality run stopper. He has a powerful upper body, with the strength and agility to occupy and shed blockers. He's also one of the most intelligent players in the NFL, one who is very good at diagnosing plays and finding ball carriers.
Acho is a lunch-pail defender, one who does all the little things that go unnoticed by the casual fans. He attacks lead blockers and fills gaps so the inside linebackers can make plays, and receive all the glory.
He's one-dimensional for sure and offers almost nothing as a pass rusher, but there's nothing wrong with that as long as he dominates against the run, which he did in 2015.
Acho is only 27 years old and is just entering his prime. He'll be available to re-sign at or near the veteran minimum, so signing him won't involve a lengthy or costly investment. There is absolutely no reason the Bears shouldn't lock down Acho on a one-year deal.
Ideally, the Bears will bring in some further OLB competition, potentially in the form of a young draft pick, which will force Acho to again earn a spot on the final 53-man roster. If he does just that, Acho will again provide quality depth for the Bears, while giving a boost to the locker room as well.
He won't singlehandedly bring the Bears to the Super Bowl but Acho can be a critical piece of the puzzle for a defense that will likely receive serious upgrades at nearly every other position.