The Chicago Bears today signed six-year veteran defensive end Turk McBride to a one-year contract. McBride (6-2, 278) is a former second-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2007. He has bounced around the league over his career, never spending more than two seasons with three different clubs.
It's an interesting move by the organization, as defensive end is arguably the deepest position on the roster. In 2012, Julius Peppers was selected to his eighth Pro Bowl and Corey Wootton had a breakout campaign, earning starting duties by midseason. In addition, the team still has high expectations for Shea McClellin, last year's first-round pick, as a rush end.
Adding to the peculiarity of the McBride acquisition is the fact Israel Idonije, a staple on Chicago's roster since 2004, has still not re-signed. On multiple occasions Idonije has expressed his desire to stay in the Windy City but as of now, the progress of those talks is unclear.
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Yet the McBride signing doesn't necessarily mean Idonije has played his last snap in the Navy and orange. In fact, it could signal something entirely different.
Late in the campaign last year, the Bears ran into numerous issues at defensive tackle. Henry Melton missed two of the team's last three games, Matt Toeaina was placed on injured reserve, Amobi Okoye was borderline worthless and Nate Collins faded down the stretch.
As a result, the defensive staff moved Idonije inside to tackle, where he was used primarily on nickel downs. It was a move made out of necessity but one that paid off and could alter the team's plans going forward.
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Idonije played 212 snaps at DT last year, picking up 2.0 sacks and grading better overall than Toeaina, Okoye and Stephen Paea. Remember, Idonije played his first five years with the Bears mainly at tackle, while rotating occasionally outside. Producing from the interior is nothing new.
Additionally, the team currently lacks depth at defensive tackle. Melton and Paea are locked in as starter but the jury is still out on Collins, whom the tem re-signed to a veteran-minimum deal last week. Toeaina was cut and Okoye isn't returning. So currently, the Bears do not have a fourth defensive tackle, unless they re-sign Idonije.
Chicago wants Idonije to return. Despite his age (32) he still plays at a very high level. PFF graded his overall game the best of any Bears defensive end last year, and it wasn't even close. As an all-around player, one who can pressure the quarterback and stuff the run from two different positions, Idonije has a lot of value. He's also a strong team leader and an outstanding locker-room presence.
McBride was signed to add depth and hedge against Idonije signing elsewhere. If the Bears have their druthers, they will re-sign Idonije at a cost-effective price and let him rotate at every position along the defensive line. McBride's presence doesn't alter that plan.
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.