Last offseason, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio cited Jeremiah Ratliff as the one defensive lineman at the requisite performance level needed in the developing defensive scheme. On Thursday that relationship crashed to an acrimonious conclusion as the Bears terminated the contract of the four-time Pro Bowl lineman.
In his place the Bears signed Ziggy Hood, a veteran of six combined seasons with Pittsburgh (2009-20013) and Jacksonville (2014). Hood was the Steelers’ first-round pick (32nd overall) in the 2009 draft. Prior to the 2014 season Hood had signed a four-year contract with Jacksonville, worth $16 million and with $5.5 million guaranteed.
Hood suffered a foot injury in September and had been on the Jacksonville reserve/injured list. He was released Thursday after passing a physical.
Ratliff’s release comes in the wake of reports of a heated confrontation with general manager Ryan Pace on Wednesday, to the point where team security personnel and Lake Forest police were summoned and Ratliff escorted from the premises. The exact nature of the incident was not known, nor whether it was what precipitated or resulted from Ratliff’s release.
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The move ostensibly saves the Bears no money, since the remainder of Ratliff’s $1.235 million had been guaranteed.
Ratliff played 41 snaps in the loss at Detroit last Sunday and was initially credited with 3 solo tackles. He was nursing a severely cut finger after the game but his release came as something of a surprise after his starting both the Kansas City and Detroit games.
“We felt moving forward without Jeremiah was in the best interest of our team,” said Pace. “We appreciate his contributions and wish him well. We are also excited to be able to add Ziggy Hood to our roster.”
Ratliff had missed the first three games this season due to a suspension arising out of an off-field DUI incident in 2014. Coincidentally, Ratliff had suffered an ankle injury during the Cincinnati preseason game and was still recovering from that in week four, causing him to miss the Oakland game.
Ratliff’s exit projects to increase the load for rookie nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who also played 41 snaps at Detroit, and others. Ratliff was working in both base 3-4 alignments and as one of the two defensive tackles in the Bears’ nickel sub package, along side Jarvis Jenkins inside and with Pernell McPhee and Willie Young outside.