The defensive trenchminders are the cornerstone of the Bears defensive scheme. It all starts up front. And in some cases, production was very good (see Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije who won't even be discussed, and Adams) but in some cases....not so much. Let's start the music and find out who should get a pink slip instead of a chair.
Henry Melton: 3-Tech DT and DE. Melton was a pleasant surprise this season. He is listed as a defensive end but lined up all over the line this year. And he fit the rotation beautifully. In limited reps and with no starts, He was 3rd among linemen and fourth on the team with 2.5 sacks. He also recorded a forced fumble and recovered a fumble and recorded a pass defended. Melton showed promise and probably played better from the 3 tech spot than anyone else on the team. It would not surprise me to see the Bears starting Melton there this season if they can't get a DT they want early in the draft. Melton also has a nice $480K salary this year, making him even more valuable. Without a doubt, Melton has a seat.
Tommie Harris: 3-Tech DT and former cause of yellow stains in opposing offensive linemen's bedsheets. Let's make this simple. Last season Tommie made almost $8M including a $6.67M roster bonus. He recorded all of 1.5 sacks, 1 pass defended, 2 fumble recoveries and 9 tackles. He was better than he was in 2009, even if it doesn't show up in the stats. But he's streaky and he may never recover from the injuries he has sustained for the Bears. Due to make a little more than $4.8 Million this year., including $2.5M roster bonus on June first, the Bears will have to look very hard at whether to keep Harris. Starting is looking less and less likely for Tommie, and as much as it hurts after some of the great years Tommie gave Chicago, it just doesn't make sense to possibly end up paying a rotational DT 10 times the amount of money you are paying the possible starter (Melton). Tommie was supposedly finally healthy this year and he still looked like nothing close to the dominator that prowled the trenches in his early years. Even if he took a pay cut, would it be worth giving him a roster spot knowing that he isn't going to get any better? Sadly due to accumulated injuries, Tommie has no seat.
Anthony Adams: 1-Gap DT and the most reliable tackle on the team. Adams wouldn't even be on this list were it not for the fact that he's a FA this offseason. A constant booger in the middle of the line, Adams is one of the most under-rated aquiaitions Angelo has brought to Chicago and one of the most under-rated DTs in the league. The Bears should make every reasonable attempt to keep Adams on the roster, and likely will considering that he cost the Bears just $900K last season while recording 2 sacks, 1 pass defended, 2 forced fumbles and 33 solo tackles from the 1-Gap. Unless Adams agent gets crazy on the cash, Adams should have a jumbo sized seat.
Marcus Harrison: 1-Gap DT. This won't take long. Everything Adams is to the 1-Gap, Harrison is not. and considering his $1.2M contract and the complete disappointment he has been, it's a pretty good bet that there will be at least a few undrafted FAs out there this year that will do a better job for half the price. Considering that, the only seat Marcus should have is one with an ejector button. Failing that, Harrison has no seat.
Matt Toeaina: 1-Gap and occasional 3-Tech rotational DT. Speaking of guys for half the price who can do a better job, meet Matt. Price tag: $640K. Is Matt spectacular? Nope. Is Matt a good option to spell Adams and whoever is playing 3-Tech in short yardage situations? Absolutely. Is Matt worth every penny of his salary? Yep. Toe has a seat.
Corey Wootton: DE and the guy who will live forever in the hearts of Bears fans everywhere as the man who's first career sack put down Brett Favre. Let's face it, we saw very little of Corey this season, but he had one of the most memorable plays in Chicago history. He showed some promise and given that the guys ahead of him on the depth chart aren't likely to give many DEs in the league a shot at starting, Wootton will get some time to develop without the pressure of being the man while learning behind one of the best in the game. The Favre-Killa has a seat.
So, when the music stops, two are left wanting: Marcus Harrison and Tommie Harris are today's casualties. Next up are the members of the offensive backfield, the QBs and RBs. Ya'll come back now, y'here?
And for those who missed the rest of the series: