In this ongoing series, we'll take a position by position look at the Chicago Bears roster with an eye towards 2013. We'll speculate on who stays, who goes, and some potential additions we'd like to see. Also thanks to our friends at Pro Football Focus, we'll bring you their unique insight on the Chicago Bears.
Julius Peppers - Signed through 2015 - Julius Peppers is currently the highest paid Chicago Bear with a cap hit of over $16 million due in 2013. I think the Bears would be wise to explore a restructuring at some point either this off season, or next. Peppers is still playing at a high level, and hopefully the off season rest will curtail his plantar fasciitis.
Pro Football Focus had Peppers as the overall 18th graded 4-3 DE with a +9.9, and his grade as a pass rusher placed him 13th. There were some games when the foot injury really bothered him, and if you look at his 2011 grade of +21.7, that could explain some of the drop off. He also took about a hundred fewer snaps in '12, but at this point in his career the Bears would be best served in keeping him fresh.
Israel Idonije - Free Agent - Even though Izzy lost his starting position midway through the season, I thought he had a very good year. His ability to play both DE and DT will make him attractive to other teams, but my gut feeling is that he remains in Chicago.
PFF didn't grade him in the red (negatively) in any game this year, either as a DE or a DT. His +14.4 grade as a DE was the 12th highest, and if you couple that with his +3.4 as a DT you can see how valuable of a player he can be. His +7.4 as a run defender was by far the best grade of all the Chicago defensive linemen.
Corey Wootton - Signed through 2013 - Wootton took over as the starting left defensive end, and according to PFF, performed worse as a starter. He was a +6.6 in the 10 games off the bench, and a -8.0 while starting the other 6 games. Part of that could have been him not being used to the extra snaps, because if you remember, Izzy was forced into some DT towards the end of the year, so Wootton wasn't being rotated out as much.
I think a three, or even a four man rotation at the DE position is a good thing for the Bears. Many teams these days shuttle fresh bodies at an offensive line as much as possible, in hopes to catch an offense tiring.
Shea McClellin - Signed through 2015 - Shea's rookie year was really stunted by some injuries. He missed two games, and in two others he barely played. His overall PFF grade was a disappointing -2.9, but there was a silver linings in their data. In just 369 snaps he had 22 QB hurries, which was good for 33rd. The interesting thing about that stat, was that the next lowest snap count taken by the players ahead of him was 501. His job was to get after the QB, and he was doing just that.
Having the versatility to line up in a myriad of ways will be a fun thing for new D.C. Mel tucker to explore.
Cheta Ozougwu - Signed through 2013 - Cheta was only credited with 24 DE snaps in 2012, and he graded out with a -1.2 in two games. He's a pass rusher that will have a shot in camp to impress the new regime.
Aston Whiteside - Signed through 2014 - Whiteside was known as a pass rush specialist at Abilene Christian, and like Cheta, he'll be around to try and impress at camp. Last off season he spent some time with the Dallas Cowboys and they tried to make an inside linebacker out of him, but in Chicago he's a 4-3 DE.
2013 OUTLOOK - If they bring back Idonije, I think they go into 2013 with the same top 4 DEs as they did last year. There's always a chance they'll draft a guy late, as you can never have enough guys to rush the passer, but I would be content with Pep, Izzy, Wootton, and McClellin.
If they do look outside for free agent help, I'm not sure how much they'll allocate to spend with so much DE money being taken up by Peppers. If they do let Idonije walk, they may bring in a few young (cheap) guys to battle for a roster spot.