Jeremiah Ratliff and Bears Agree to Contract: Latest Details, Reaction, Analysis

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIMarch 5, 2014

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Updates from Wednesday, March 12

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune breaks down the financial terms of Jay Ratliff's new deal with the Chicago Bears:

Original Text

The Chicago Bears agreed to a two-year contract with defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff on Wednesday, fortifying depth in the trenches at a position of dire need.

News of the new deal surfaced from the Bears' official Twitter account:

Ratliff made four consecutive Pro Bowls from 2008 through 2011 and was an All-Pro in 2009—all as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. Injuries have unfortunately plagued the 32-year-old veteran in recent seasons, and it led to his release from America's Team in October 2013.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noted how Ratliff is reunited with his former Dallas defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni with the Bears and how he enjoys the new environment:

But there was a silver lining to be had for Ratliff thereafter. Chicago suffered a slew of injuries on the defensive line and were desperate for bodies in the rotation, leading to general manager Phil Emery taking a flier on Ratliff later in the year.

In five games for the Bears this past season, Ratliff managed 1.5 sacks and nine combined tackles. Now that a two-year contract is in place, it seems Chicago is expecting him to be a significant contributor in 2014 and beyond. That notion is fortified by the fact that the Bears didn't allow Ratliff to test the waters as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, which he would have been absent this new contract on March 11.

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune mentioned what the Bears felt Ratliff has brought to the gridiron and the locker room with his presence in his brief stint with the team to date:

Standout offensive lineman Kyle Long was pleased to hear of the news that Ratliff was retained:

There seems to be an effort made by Emery and Co. to lock up several members of the current core of players in Chicago. As the team's official Twitter account highlights, the Bears have signed the most to-be free agents in the league over the past several months:

That makes some sense, since the team was so close to winning the NFC North division and hosting a playoff game before losing the Week 17 finale to the rival Green Bay Packers. In the second year under head coach Marc Trestman, it's conceivable that the Bears could make a similar, if not better and ultimately successful, push for the postseason.

Part of that effort will depend on Chicago's ability to defend and complement a high-octane, balanced offense. The Bears were last in the NFL versus the run in 2013—an area that Ratliff should be able to help.

Ratliff is more known for his ability as a pass-rusher from the interior, capable of collapsing the pocket as well as blowing up running plays between the tackles. With unique athleticism and quickness for his size, few defenders command a double-team as often as Ratliff when he's fully healthy.

It remains to be seen whether or not Ratliff can return to his Pro Bowl level, but that's something the Bears are at least holding out hope for as a possibility. Defensive tackles Henry Melton and Corey Wootton are unrestricted free agents, and Nate Collins is a restricted free agent, so re-signing Ratliff was a savvy move by the Bears to secure at least one talented player at the position.