Bears look to replenish LB corps with Williams signing

Facing a critical shortage of depth at their linebacking position, the Chicago Bears took steps to alleviate that concern with the signing of former Denver Broncos starter D.J. Williams to a one-year deal.

The agreement is a potential “win-win” for both sides as the Bears desperately needed an infusion of talent and experience at the position while Williams is trying to resurrect his career after two suspensions cost him the majority of the 2012 season.  He missed six games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy and three games for his second arrest for driving under the influence.

Williams addition gives the Bears a veteran performer who adds both depth and flexibility. He has played both middle and strong-side linebacker during his tenure with the Broncos. Bears General Manager Phil Emery indicated Williams could see either spot in the defensive alignment.  “We are happy to welcome D.J. to the Bears and are excited to start working with him,” Emery said. “This is a great opportunity for D.J. to restart his career after coming off suspension for part of the 2012 season. We see a player that has very good athletic upside who can contribute immediately at ‘Mike’ (middle) linebacker. He is also a versatile player who has played both outside linebacker positions, giving us flexibility in the draft.”

Williams was one of the better linebackers left on the open market. The 6-1, 242-pounder has started 115 of 127 games played in nine seasons (2004-12) with Denver after being selected 17th overall by the Broncos during the 2004 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami (FL). He started at the weakside (39), inside (31), strongside (29) and middle (16) linebacker positions for the Broncos during his career, recording 816 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, 38 pass break ups and two interceptions. His 816 tackles are 10th in the NFL since 2004 and he is one of five players to record 800 tackles and 20 sacks since entering the league.

Williams started five of six postseason contests for Denver, recording 32 tackles, three pass break ups and a half sack.

Hopefully, his recent comments to The Denver Post reflect some new-found maturity. “During the whole time I learned a lot about myself, my true character,” Williams said. “(During the) 2 1/2 months I was really by myself. Alone. Working out. Had to be dedicated and stay concentrated.”

He could help solidify the defense if he can stay out of trouble and return to his previous playmaking form.

Bear Tracks: The club also added depth at the tight end position, signing former Chiefs TE Steve Maneri. The 6-7, 280-pound Maneri has appeared in 19 games with nine starts over two seasons (2011-12) with the Kansas City Chiefs after entering the NFL with the Houston Texans in 2010 as an undrafted free agent out of Temple University. He spent a majority of the 2010 regular season on the New England Patriots practice squad.During his time in Kansas City, Maneri had six receptions for 52 yards. In 2012, he started eight of 13 games played while helping block for Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles who was fourth in the NFL with 1,509 rushing yards. Maeri’s forte is blocking, so he essentially replaces former TE Matt Spaeth on the roster. Maneri was courted by Cincinnati as well….The Bears released the following statement on FB Evan Rodriguez’s arrest in Miami on disorderly conduct/interfering with police charges. “We are aware of the reports regarding Evan Rodriguez. We are currently gathering information to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the situation.” Rodriguez entered last year’s draft with character concerns following several off-field incidents in college.

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