It didn’t take long for the Chicago Bears to find Brian Urlacher’s replacement. On Friday, the Bears announced that D.J. Williams was signed to a one-year deal.
The deal is worth $900,000 and isn’t guaranteed, but Williams can earn up to $1.75 in 2013 after a series of roster bonuses.
Williams spent all nine of his NFL seasons with the Denver Broncos playing inside and outside linebacker. He appeared in 127 games making 115 starts, 816 tackles, 20.5 sacks, two interceptions, 13 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.
The 30-year old linebacker was drafted by Denver in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami.
He was due $6 million this upcoming season and was released alongside former Bears QB Caleb Hanie on March 11.
Williams joins a Bears’ defense that was looking for veteran help at linebacker with Lance Briggs remaining as the only starter.
Williams won’t be guaranteed to win the starting job, but he was one of the top linebackers remaining on the market and it takes some pressure off picking a youngster in the NFL Draft next month.
“We see a player that has very good athletic upside who can contribute immediately at MIKE (middle) linebacker,” said GM Phil Emery via ChicagoBears.com. “He is also a versatile player who has played both outside linebacker positions, giving us flexibility in the draft.”
The 6’1″, 242 pound Williams led the Broncos in tackles in five of his nine seasons in Denver. He was in trouble with the league last season however. He played in only seven games due to a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs and a three-game suspension for a DUI arrest in his time in Denver.
Williams joins LT Jermon Bushrod, TE Martellus Bennett, TE Steve Maneri, and DE Turk McBride as the fifth free agent the Bears have signed this off-season. DT Nate Collins and CB Zackary Bowman so far are the only free agents that have re-signed.
Williams is one of three players in the league to record 600 tackles, 40 stuffs and 20 sacks from the 2004 until 2011. The other two are former Bears LB Brian Urlacher and former Dolphins LB Karlos Dansby.
For half the price of Urlacher the Bears got themselves a pretty solid linebacker. Williams will fit in nicely next to Lance Briggs. Playing alongside a talented and smart defense could give Williams the confidence to focus on football. A change of scenery could be exactly what he needs to play hard once again.
It’s not much of a gamble considering his contract. Expect the Bears to add another veteran linebacker before the draft. Former Packer Nick Barnett is reportedly on the Bears radar according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The move would make plenty of sense considering the 31-year old Barnett hasn’t missed a game the past two seasons in Buffalo while adding 242 tackles, five sacks, four forced fumbles and three interceptions.
He was released from the Bills on February 11. The former first-round pick out of Oregon State still has plenty of talent left. He would be an upgrade over J.T. Thomas at strongside linebacker, who seems to be the logical choice for the spot if the Bears don’t add any new linebackers.
Don’t be shocked to see Barnett in a Bears uniform in 2013 if the Bears can get him for a reasonable price.
More news to come about the Bears off-season moves. Stay tuned.