Bears draft trail of breadcrumbs leads to
General manager Phil Emery has been firm and consistent about maintaining a cloak of secrecy and cone of silence over Bears draft intentions. But in theater, action is character and in the NFL, action is revealing.
The signing of former San Francisco 49ers guard Chilo Rachal, the latest in an offseason replete with additions on offense (Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall, Devin Thomas, Eric Weems), is a small trail of breadcrumbs leading in the general direction of a first draft strike on the other side of the ball.
But not just anywhere on defense.
Cornerback was addressed with the signings of Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite. Safety was attended to with third-rounders in the last two drafts (Chris Conte, Major Wright) and that too is not a first-round need.
Emery is looking hard at veteran additions at linebacker in the days remaining before next Thursdays draft opening. ESPNChicago.com chronicled a Halas Hall visit by Washington Redskins veteran Rocky McIntosh, a player on the Bears radar for the past couple of years.
Also getting looks have been Zac Diles from the Houston Texans and Bryan Kehl from the St. Louis Rams, according to various reports.
The implication: Emery and the Bears see value in free agency and potential depth behind Lance Briggs, Nick Roach and Brian Urlacher. Sports Illustrateds Peter King also reported that the Bears brought in Alabama linebacker Donta Hightower
But where the guest list for linebacker has been heavier with veterans, an equally strong parallel effort has been happening at defensive end with an eye toward the draft.
The Bears have done extensive checking out of Illinois Whitney Mercilus, whom more than one mock draft projects to be falling to the Bears at No. 19. South Carolinas Melvin Ingram was a visitor at Halas Hall this week, according to sources. And Syracuse edge rusher Chandler Jones was a previous interviewee for the Bears.
Ingram is not expected to last until the Bears turn comes, with a resume including 19 sacks over the past two years. Jones, whom ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper rates behind only North Carolinas Quinton Coples and Ingram among ends, and Mercilus are juniors.
That makes for some difficulties in evaluations. Jones had 4.5 sacks in 2011 but missed five games with a knee injury. Mercilus had 16 sacks last season but only one in each of the previous two and if you go back to August, Mercilus wasnt even one of Illinois top five defensive linemen, Kiper said.
The juniors come out with a limited body of work, but sometimes that helps them because you cant shoot as many holes in them or find red flags. The guys that stay a long time, you find something that bothers you and youre picking them apart.
Fault-finding is traditionally the sport of choice in draft rooms over the last week before the draft. The Bears will be doing that with an eye toward having their preferences decided as their turn approaches next Thursday evening.