Is Jon Bostic the heir apparent to Brian Urlacher for the Chicago Bears? I think we should consider it a strong possibility, if not a certainty -- even after general manager Phil Emery refused to be pinned down on the team's plans Friday night.
Bostic was a middle linebacker at Florida, calling plays and serving as one of the Gators' team leaders. He has the kind of speed and quickness NFL teams love to see in so-called "three-down" linebackers, having run the fastest 40-yard dash for inside linebackers (4.61 seconds) at the 2013 NFL scouting combine. (He also ran the quickest three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle for players at his position.)
Emery said Bostic would start out in the middle but that he is a "three-position linebacker" whose career arc can only be described as a "future starter." I took that as Emery's attempt to avoid putting too much pressure on a rookie who came to the Bears at the end of a four-player run of inside linebackers midway through the second round. Friday was not the day to be crowning the next Brian Urlacher.
"We expect him to be a starter in the future," Emery said, "whether that's at Will, Mike or Sam [positions]. Whatever works for us in the given situation at the time."
The Bears decided last month to end negotiations with Urlacher, who remains a free agent. They have signed veteran D.J. Williams, but Williams will be 31 this summer and is on a one-year contract.
Emery certainly described Bostic as a middle linebacker, even without using the word. He noted Bostic's intelligence and experience as being "a guy that can line up others." Emery added: "We brought him in for a visit and we felt very good about his football aptitude and his ability to line up everybody else on the field."
Finally, Emery noted that Bostic rated as the best athlete among all middle linebackers in the draft based on the Bears' "Athletic Index Score." It's nice that the Bears have a player athletic enough to move outside if needed, but there are plenty of reasons to believe Bostic will be playing inside for the Bears for a long time.