When the Bears released veteran defensive lineman Tommie Harris on February 28, it was a move that was probably long overdue. Between injuries and other issues, he had been suspended twice and had only shown brief flashes of the player that made three Pro Bowls in his first four seasons.
Still, the move means that there is a starting slot open on the Bears' front four. Will they replace Harris with someone internal? Or will they look to the draft, free agency or even a possible trade?
Let's examine the options and potential moves Jerry Angelo might make as the Bears head into their first season without Harris since 2004.
If there is a season, that is...
Indications are that local kid Liuget may be plucked before the Bears pick at number 29 in the first round. Plus, they will likely be looking at an offensive lineman for their first round selection.
However, if they do decide to go defense with their first pick, and Liuget slips to them, they would be hard-pressed to pass this kid up.
Liuget is quick off the ball and powerful. He is relentless and solid open field tackler. He has a non-stop motor and would be quite the addition to the Bears D-line.
Hey, if they are truly interested in defense in the first round, perhaps Angelo could trade to move up in the draft? Just a thought...
If the Bears want to save their first round pick for the offensive line, as they should, most draft experts believe this draft is deep enough for the Bears to find help in the second round.
Nevis is a guy that could be there when the Bears make their second pick. While he is slightly undersized, he is very fast and a hard worker both on and off the field. He gets strong marks for character.
Nevis would be an above average run stuffer with good quickness, though he does not currently project to be an above average pass rusher, at least not yet.
But he could replace Harris, if not next year then the year after that one.
Another Big Ten prospect who might be available for the Bears in the second round is 6'4" defensive tackle Christian Ballard from Iowa. He is moving up quickly on the draft boards, however.
For what it's worth, draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. likes him as a very productive hard worker and calls him a very "blue collar" type of player. Well, guess what—this just happens to be a blue collar type of town.
Perfect match? We'll see.
Dare we dream big? No way this guy falls out of the top five picks; in fact, some say he could go number one in the draft. But let's just say, for the sake of argument, that Angelo shocks the world by trading to move up in the draft. This is unlikely, I know, but humor me for a minute here.
Dareus is a guy who could make even the Pro Bowl version of Tommie Harris disappear in the minds of Bears fans. He is a great pass rusher who could also play defensive end and has prototypical size and strength for the defensive tackle position and great speed for his size.
Is this going to happen? Very, very unlikely. But we can dream. Oh yes, we can dream.
As long as we are dreaming, let's say that the Bears do move up in the draft but Dareus is gone. Well, no matter, we'll just have to settle for Fairley.
A dynamic pass rusher with good power, speed and a mean streak. He likes to slam quarterbacks into the ground, so watch for him to get a lot of fines until he adjusts to the NFL.
I will say he would be a "fairley" good choice. But again, he will be gone very early.
OK, so he's a defensive end. Still, he could play defensive tackle with the Bears, and I wouldn't mind at all. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the Bears are interested in Jenkins.
Surprisingly, Green Bay did not offer Jenkins a contract nor did they tag him, so he is free to sign with anybody. That is, once the labor mess gets sorted out.
Not only is this guy productive, what a way to stick it to our rivals!
Staying in-house for a moment, the Bears could bypass using a high draft pick or a free agent signing and instead give Melton the job. But that would be risky.
The 2009 fourth-round pick missed his rookie season but did occasionally have an impact last year. But he is undersized and may lack the power to do the job.
Another current candidate, Toeaina doesn't get my motor running, but you have to say he is a possibility.
The Bears did sign him to an extension last year, so they must see something in him. But if he was in their plans to replace Harris, why did they move Tommie back into the starting lineup over the final six games of the season and the playoffs?
Even assuming the Bears stay in-house for their Harris replacement, this one probably makes less sense that their other in-house alternatives as Harrison will struggle just to keep a job with the Bears next season.
Still, a good camp and you never know. Assuming there is a camp, of course.
Harrison was inactive for 11 games last season so he makes this list as a huge long shot.
Mebane is another long shot, because Seattle tendered him an offer, making the 'Hawks defensive tackle a restricted free agent. At least under the current CBA. When the new one is agreed to, who knows?
But at least for now, Seattle retains the right to either match a Bears offer or surrender Mebane for a third round pick. That compensation might be well worth it for Chicago.
Meanwhile, Mebane is a very underrated tackle. He is a young, hard worker who has the skills to be dominant at his position for years to come.