The Chicago Bears have an important, critical need at inside linebacker.
In 2015, defensive coordinator used Shea McClellin and Christian Jones as his primary ILBs. Yet injuries and poor play from the duo forced Fangio to rotate linebackers, with LeRoy Reynolds, Jonathan Anderson and John Timu all serving as rotational options at certain points in the season.
McClellin becomes a free agent on Wednesday and it's highly unlikely the Bears will re-sign him. After four years of disappointing results, the former first-round pick will be playing elsewhere next season and beyond.
Jones lacked field vision and was not disruptive at the point of attack, and was eventually benched late in the season. He's not a long-term option either.
That leaves the Bears with a gaping hole at inside linebacker, a position that many consider very shallow in both free agency and the draft this year.
With a dearth of viable long-term options to run Fangio's defense, the Bears would be wise to pursue the top veteran ILB in free agency: Danny Trevathan.
Trevathan is a 26-year-old who led the Broncos championship defense last season. He's a downhill linebacker who can stuff the run, while also showing good awareness and reactive ability in coverage.
He played just three games in 2014 due to injury, but as a full-time starter in 2013 and 2015 he combined for 238 tackles, 16 pass breakups and 3 forced fumbles.
A well-rounded, playmaking linebacker, Trevathan was drafted by John Fox in Denver and played under Chicago's current head coach for three seasons. He has a built-in comfort with Fox and has already publicly stated he'll consider coming to Chicago.
So here's the situation: you have the top free agent at the Bears' biggest position of need, one who's familiar with Fox and his system, has experience playing in a 3-4 defense similar to that of Fangio's, and wants to come to the Windy City.
This is really a no-brainer.
Here is what GM Ryan Pace said last week at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine.
"There’s going to be certain positions that we’re going to be more aggressive at but I think you’ve just got to be cautious in free agency because it’s a risky area," said Pace.
Pace has said he wants to build through the draft and not go overboard in free agency, which is a sound strategy. Yet I believe one of the positions he'll be aggressive at is inside linebacker. The Bears have no viable options at a critical position in Fangio's 3-4 defense, and the cupboard in both free agency and the draft is relatively bare. If no major upgrade is made at ILB, the defense will go nowhere, and Pace, as well as Fox and Fangio, know it.
Trevathan will likely cost between $6M-$8M per season, or roughly what the Bears are paying OLB Pernell McPhee, who was Pace's free-agent prize last season, when he had about half as much cap space with which to work. That's a workable sum, one that lands the team a top talent at a position of impact and leaves Pace plenty of money to fill out the remainder of the roster.
Landing an accomplished leader like Trevathan would be the first step in rebuilding a once-proud defense in Chicago.