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Bears act fast, sign ex-Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams

The Bears signed versatile linebacker D.J. Williams (55) one-year deal Friday thcould reach $1.75 million. | Jack Dempsey~AP

The Bears signed versatile linebacker D.J. Williams (55) to a one-year deal Friday that could reach $1.75 million. | Jack Dempsey~AP

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Updated: April 24, 2013 6:21AM

Well, that was fast.

Less than 48 hours after the Bears announced their divorce from longtime middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, they brought in a veteran who could potentially take his spot.

The Bears signed linebacker D.J. Williams on Friday to a one-year deal that could reach $1.75 million. It comes right on the heels of the team’s announcement Wednesday that it couldn’t reach an “accord” with Urlacher, who has said numerous times since that he felt insulted by their one-year, take-it-or-leave-it $2 million offer (which included a $500,000 signing bonus and a $500,000 workout bonus).

“We are happy to welcome D.J. to the Bears and are excited to start working with him,” general manager Phil Emery said in a statement.

If anything, the fast signing of Williams proves that Emery and Co. have some sort of plan in place after saying goodbye to Urlacher and losing strong-side linebacker Nick Roach in free agency to the Oakland Raiders.

It’s also likely that the Bears aren’t finished adding to their linebacking corps with Nick Barnett, Daryl Smith, Karlos Dansby and others still out there in free agency as well as some intriguing players available in this year’s draft.

Williams, who turns 31 in July, might actually turn out to be Roach’s replacement on the Bears’ defense, which will have some differences under new coordinator Mel Tucker. It’s very unlikely that Williams will be asked to do all the things Urlacher excelled at, especially dropping into coverage in the middle of the field.

That said, it appears Williams will start in the middle for the Bears, but he has experience playing all three linebacker positions.

“We see a player that has very good athletic upside who can contribute immediately at ‘Mike’ linebacker,” Emery said. “He is also a versatile player who has played both outside linebacker positions, giving us flexibility in the draft.”

Williams was a tackling machine for the Denver Broncos since being drafted in the first round in 2004 out of Miami. In his career, he has 816 tackles, 20½ sacks, 13 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, 38 pass breakups and two interceptions.

But Williams does come with some risk. Last season was a major disappointment for him, ending in his release. Williams was due $6 million this season if he stayed in Denver.

Williams was suspended nine games last season, while starting only one. He received a six-game ban for violating the NFL’s banned-substances policy, which included the league saying he provided a “non-human” urine sample. It was increased to nine games for a 2010 incident that included him being arrested for driving under the influence. In 2005, Williams also pleaded guilty to impaired driving.

But the Bears are clearly hoping they landed a player who is motivated and determined to prove his worth because of his transgressions. It was a good sign Emery mentioned his suspensions in his statement.

“This is a great opportunity for D.J. to restart his career after coming off suspension for part of the 2012 season,” Emery said.

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