Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Not long after signing their two big name free agents last week, the Bears saw one of their starting linebackers depart for the Oakland Raiders.
Nick Roach started 59 games over the last six seasons in Chicago, mostly at the strong-side linebacker position but filled in at middle linebacker for Brian Urlacher in the final four games of the 2012 season.
The Bears currently only have one proven starter at linebacker in Lance Briggs and will no doubt look to add some youth to the position in the draft but may need to look to the free-agent market for a stopgap.
New defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is expected to implement a similar Cover-2 scheme that the Bears have run in recent years and given his time spent in Jacksonville, veteran Daryl Smith may be a logical choice to come to Chicago.
Smith was injured most of the 2012 season, only making two starts, but prior to that he has been consistently healthy and one of the most unheralded starters in the NFL.
Pro Football Focus lists Smith as their top available free agent linebacker, saying:
This long-time Jacksonville Jaguar hasn’t gotten as much attention as he deserves since joining the league in 2004. He spent nearly all of the 2012 season injured and played only in the last two games. Prior to that he was the standard for 4-3 outside linebackers. In 2011 he finished third in Run Stop Percentage at 10.6%, in Pass Rushing Productivity (for those with at least 50 pass rushes) at 13.0, and in Yards per Coverage Snap at 0.67. Many of the free agent linebackers available are good at one or two of those things, but he is the rare talent who can do it all. He will be 31 in a month, so his best football might be behind him, but even if he can’t reach the same heights he once did, he can still be a great upgrade for most teams.
Given his age (31) and the fact that he is coming off of an injury may drive the market price down and given his relationship with Tucker, the Bears may find a guy who can hold down the strong side for a couple of years until they are able to develop his replacement.