Urlacher leaves hole of fame in Bears’ ‘D’
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org March 20, 2013 11:13PM
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 04: Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears stands on the field before playing in Super Bowl XLI against the Indianapolis Colts on February 4, 2007 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brian Urlacher
Updated: April 22, 2013 12:33PM
So where do the Bears go from here?
Brian Urlacher’s Bears career is over after the sides failed to reach an agreement on a contract and a decision was reached Wednesday to part ways.
But now there’s a gaping hole in the middle of the Bears’ defense that had been filled at a Hall-of-Fame level for more than a decade.
General manager Phil Emery undoubtedly has a plan in place for this situation — which also includes the loss of strong-side linebacker Nick Roach — but it won’t be an easy fix.
Other than Lance Briggs, the only other linebacker on the roster who has started a game on defense is Blake Costanzo, which took place last season.
“[Urlacher is] a special player,” Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak said during the owners meetings in Phoenix. “Guys like that don’t come along very often. Every team is looking for that type of guy to be on their team.”
Replacing Urlacher starts with comparing what’s available in free agency against who might be there in the draft, but the Bears likely will eye linebackers in each stage.
The free-agent pool of inside linebackers remains slim, but there are some to seriously consider, starting with Brad Jones, Karlos Dansby, Takeo Spikes and Michael Boley.
Some of them have been used in 3-4 schemes, but the Bears are expected to adjust their scheme under new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and not rely solely on Lovie Smith’s previous cover-2 defense.
Jones, Dansby and Spikes all rated better than Urlacher in Pro Football Focus’ inside-linebacker ratings.
There are only three inside linebackers considered potential first-rounders in this year’s draft: Georgia’s Alec Ogletree, LSU’s Kevin Minter and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o.
All three could be available at No. 20 when the Bears’ first pick comes up, but Emery has said he’s “open for business” when it comes to trading down to add more picks. The Bears are trying to get younger overall.
After Ogletree, Minter and Te’o, the best inside linebackers include Kiko Alonso (Oregon), Jon Bostic (Florida) and Nico Johnson (Alabama).
Cornerback Charles Tillman, though, said Urlacher can’t be replaced.
‘‘Whomever they bring in, that person has to create an identity for himself and not try to be Brian Urlacher and be in his shadow,” Tillman said. “Just be yourself and be your own player.”