The Bears’ release of linebacker Khaseem Greene on Monday after two undistinguished seasons was no surprise even against the backdrop of their change to a 3-4 defense and its increased job opportunities for linebackers.
But Greene’s departure points to a pattern that GM Ryan Pace need to change, and appears to have to have taken a step toward doing just that.
Greene was Chicago's 2013 fourth-round draft choice. The year before, the Bears’ fourth-rounder was Evan Rodriguez, who contributed even less than Greene in his one season with the Bears. Last season the fourth-round pick was used on running back Ka’Deem Carey, who got on the field for just 100 of the Bears’ 1,005 plays and did not contribute even an assisted tackle on special teams. The Bears invested their 2015 fourth-round pick on running back Jeremy Langford from Michigan State, making Carey very much of a roster longshot in large part because of special-teams shortcomings.
[MORE BEARS: Bears waive LB Khaseem Greene, add QB Pat Devlin]
The Bears stayed on point with their draft-board ratings in selecting Langford. But the fact that the Bears regarded running back as a need does not bode well for Carey.
“We did have it as a need but honestly It was still best player and he was the best player on the board," Pace said. "That’s one of those situations where it kind of worked out hand in hand.”
Franchises do not typically turn on fourth-round draft choices. But the Green Bay Packers, for example, fashioned three-fifths of their offensive line (tackle David Bakhtiari, guards T.J. Lang and Pro Bowler Josh Sitton), one-third of their defensive line (right end Mike Daniels) and their nickel cornerback (Davon House) from fourth-round picks.
Prior to the Rodriguez-Greene-Carey run, the Bears had found Corey Wootton, Henry Melton, D.J. Moore and Craig Steltz in successive fourth rounds.
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Because of Le’Veon Bell on the Michigan State depth chart, Langford necessarily developed other skills in order to get on the field. Those other skills loom as tipping points and possible keys in reversing the fourth-round “slide.”
“When I was younger, it was a little frustrating playing DB and playing receiver,” Langford said. “I just wanted to find a home. I think in the long run, learning the whole offense and really reading defenses better, it helped in the long run.
“I played all special teams, so I can tackle.”
That would put him ahead of recent Bears No. 4’s.