Proving that they haven't forgotten about their defense, the Bears signed standout free-agent linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa on May 29, just hours after signing versatile backup lineman Israel Idonije to a two-year contract extension through 2011.
Tinoisamoa, a starter in each of his six seasons with the Rams, and their leading tackler in four of those seasons, signed a one-year deal and immediately become the favorite to win the starting job at strong-side linebacker.
The 6-1, 225-pound Tinoisamoa joins a unit that already includes Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, who have been voted to nine Pro Bowls between them. Midway through last season, Nick Roach won the starting job on the strong side from Hunter Hillenmeyer, who is still recovering from offseason hernia surgery. Roach is currently listed as the starter, and Tinoisamoa has not been promised anything more than an opportunity to compete for the job, but he is expected to win the competition.
He's undersized for an NFL linebacker, but that isn't considered a drawback in a defense that values speed and quickness more than size. Tinoisamoa led the Rams with a career-best 104 tackles last season and also had a personal-best 3.0 sacks.
His presence should give the Bears excellent depth and some spirited competition at training camp. Other than the three projected starters, plus Roach and Hillenmeyer, the Bears also have fourth-year player Jamar Williams, who is having an excellent offseason, and 2008 seventh-round pick Joey LaRocque. Williams and LaRocque both were productive on special teams last season. In addition, the Bears also used a fifth-round pick this year on Ohio State's Marcus Freeman, but they might not keep more than seven linebackers.
The 27-year-old Tinoisamoa attracted attention from the Patriots, Bills and Eagles, but the Bears became a clear favorite after the Patriots signed former Lions linebacker Paris Lenon.