Emery began by restocking the Bears linebacker corps following Nick Roach’s exodus to Oakland and the club and Brian Urlacher not being able to come to terms on a short-term deal. Emery brought in two veterans, mercurial ex-Denver backer D.J. Williams and steady James Anderson, an eight-year vet formerly with the Carolina Panthers. Both bring playmaking skills and will team with Pro Bowler Lance Briggs to give the Bears a solid nucleus.
From there, Emery brought back veteran offensive tackle Jonathan Scott and cornerback/nickel back Kelvin Hayden. Scott will challenge J’Marcus Webb and perhaps Gabe Carimi for the starting right tackle spot. Scott played well once he was inserted into the lineup midways through the 2012 season. He provides size, experience, and a veteran’s studious approach to each snap. Hayden took over for D.J. Moore at nickel back and slowly improved over the year, demonstrating some of the qualities the Bears had seen in Hayden originally.
Emery brought in former Baltimore and Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski as well. He’ll provide depth in the secondary as well as become a corps special teams player. The Chicago area product is excited to be back in the area and promsies to bring his physcial play to Soldier Field.
Lastly, Emery capped off a busy week by importing former New York Jets guard Matt Slauson on a one-year deal and re-signing Bears third string quarterback Josh McCown. In Slauson, the Bears get a steady and dependable lineman. “We are excited that Matt will be a Bear,” Bears General Manager Phil Emery said. “He brings physical play and smarts to the offensive guard position and to the offensive line as an overall unit. His size, strength and power will allow him to challenge for either of the starting guard positions.”
The 6-5, 315-pounder has started 48 of the last 51 games he has played in since being drafted by the Jets in the 6th round (193rd overall) out of Nebraska in 2009. He did not allow a sack in 2012 and has helped the Jets rush for no less than 1,600 yards since becoming a full-time starter (1,896 in 2012; 1,692 in 2011; 2,374 in 2010).
As for McCown, he provides depth behind starter Jay Cutler after last year’s backup Jason Campbell opted to sign in Cleveland. The 6-4, 213-pound McCown has started 33 of 50 games since being drafted by the Arizona Cardinals 81st overall in the 2002 NFL draft. He has tallied 645 completions for 6,998 yards, 37 touchdowns and 44 interceptions over his career. McCown has also added 637 yards on 139 attempts and three touchdowns on the ground. McCown returns to the Bears after spending parts of the last two seasons on the active roster.
Weeks away from the NFL Draft, Emery should feel good about the progress he’s made in reshaping the Bears roster.
Paw Prints: The Bears offseason conditioning program begins Tuesday. The club’s voluntary offseason program begins Tuesday at Halas Hall when coach Marc Trestman and his staff can begin working with players for the first time. The Bears and the other seven clubs that hired a new head coach earlier this offseason get a two-week head start on the rest of the NFL. Under the collective bargaining contract, the first two weeks are limited to strength and conditioning work only.