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Bears need Urlacher replacement and more

AP Photo/G. Newman Lowrance

Now that Brian Urlacher has left the building the Bears need to replace him.

After 13 seasons, 189 games and eight Pro Bowl selections, the Chicago Bears elected not to re-sign Brian Urlacher this offseason, leaving a big hole in the middle of the defense.

The Bears signed two linebackers in the offseason – D.J. Williams from Denver and James Anderson from Carolina – but both have primarily played on the outside and neither played more than half of their team’s defensive snap last season.

The Bears currently have five picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, tied for the fewest in the league. If they do try to replace Urlacher in the draft, should they do it in the first round (20th overall)?

Bears With/Without Urlacher
2008-12

Any replacement for Urlacher – selected ninth overall in 2000 – will need to be able to impact both the run game and passing game.

Over the last five seasons, the Bears have allowed 16 more touchdowns than interceptions with Urlacher off the field, compared to 12 more interceptions than touchdowns with him on the field. They have also allowed half a yard more per rush with Urlacher off the field.

Urlacher is also one of four players in NFL history with 40 sacks and 20 interceptions. Sacks became an official stat in 1982.

In Mel Kiper Jr.’s most recent mock draft, he has the Bears selecting Notre Dame ILB Manti Te'o 20th overall.

Te’o defended 11 passes last season. Only two other inside linebackers were rated 80 or higher according to Scouts Inc. (Alec Ogletree, Georgia and Kevin Minter, LSU), and they combined to defend 12 passes last season. Te’o’s seven interceptions last season were also most by a linebacker since 2006.

Todd McShay sees inside linebacker with the same level of concern for the Bears. In McShay’s most recent mock draft, he has the Bears selecting Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree.

Bears Tight Ends, 2012 Season

The Bears do have other needs, however, and could delay selecting a linebacker.

The Bears did add Martellus Bennett in free agency, but tight end was a major weakness for Chicago last season.

No team finished with fewer receptions from the tight end position than the Bears in 2012. Bears tight ends also dropped 15 percent of their targets last season, the highest drop rate in the NFL and nearly triple the league average at the position (5.4 percent).

Protecting Jay Cutler may be even a bigger priority than giving him someone to throw to though.

Chicago signed left tackle Jermon Bushrod in free agency, but still has a hole at right tackle. The Bears have allowed a sack once every 11.9 dropbacks since the start of 2011, the second-worst rate in the NFL.