CHirs Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Bears parted ways with longtime middle linebacker Brian Urlacher on Wednesday. Today, they're signing the person who will likely replace him in 2013.
Per Dan Pompei, of the Chicago Tribune:
D.J. Williams is formerly of the Denver Broncos, having played his college ball at the University of Miami.
The 17th pick in the 2004 draft, D.J. Williams has played his entire professional career for the Denver Broncos. 2nd in the NFL in tackles in 2007, he has notched 20.5 sacks in his career. He's played both inside and outside, and could be a good fit into either slot in the Bears currently gaping starting linebacker list.
D.J. Williams, however, is not without his off-the-field problems. In 2005 he pleaded guilty to driving drunk and received community service. In 2010, he was against cited for a DUI. In 2012, he served nine games of suspension, 6 for violating the league's performance enhancing drugs policy, and then the league tacked on three for the second DUI arrest.
As detailed in Pompei's link above, the deal works well for the Bears. It's a one-year base salary of $900,000, none guaranteed. A maximum of $1.785 can be earned for hitting workout and roster bonuses. Williams was slated to make $6 million with the Broncos, hence his release.
This represents a chance for Williams to keep his life clean, and then perhaps rejuvenate the second half of his career. He's a solid player, and should fit nicely into the Bears scheme in 2013. If he plays well, they can utilize him for another few years as they find a new replacement.
From Kyle Montgomery and Ian Henson, Mile High Report:
What most NFL fans (and Chicago Bears fans) won't know is that D.J. Williams is an incredible player. Fans of the Denver Broncos tired of him eventually, as they did Brandon Marshall (and Jay Cutler) prior to that, but to compare Williams to either Cutler or Marshall's situations in Denver is not fair. Williams was involved in three separate off the field incidents, but unlike Cutler or Marshall the Broncos never lobbied publicly (then privately) for his exit.
The fact that Williams has never made a Pro Bowl is kind of a joke. He definitely deserved to be Honolulu in the 2008 and 2010 seasons, one could also make a strong argument for him in 2011. What you're getting is a linebacker who can play (and has played) under a new defensive coordinator and in a new position nearly every year that he has been in the NFL.
Strengths: D.J. Williams is versatile. He has started in all three 4-3 linebacker positions as a Bronco and took to each move fairly well. But his best and most natural position is probably weakside linebacker. He's able to show off his speed without being relied upon to be overly physical at Mike.
Weaknesses: The off-field issues immediately come to mind. Between failed drug tests and two alcohol-related arrests, Williams just wasn't able to stay on the field. Despite a lot of productive seasons for the Broncos, the brass in Denver decided enough was enough, and fans can't really blame him.
Williams isn't Brian Urlacher -- he's not going to impose his physicality on his opponent, and he's not one to fill that leadership role. But he is a very solid player, and signing him to a one-year deal is great move. Hopefully he can grow up and maybe earn an extension with you or a long-term deal somewhere else.
Big thanks to Kyle and Ian at MHR for taking the time to drop some first hand knowledge on us about the newest member of our Chicago Bears.