The Chicago Bears have made their defensive line a point of emphasis in free agency this season, bringing in guys like Lamarr Houston and Willie Young while saying goodbye to Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton. On Wednesday, they made their biggest splash of all at that spot, signing Jared Allen to a four-year contract.
With Allen now in the fold, the question on a lot of fans’ mind is what the acquisition means for the team’s draft strategy come May. The consensus has long been that the Bears would either draft a defensive dynamo in the number 14 slot in the draft, or they would trade down to add more draft picks in order to get more pieces to bolster various areas of weakness on that side of the ball.
Some people think that the Allen acquisition means that the Bears are likely to move away from a defensive lineman in that slot, and will more likely focus on in some secondary help at either safety or cornerback. Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix is a guy that has come up frequently in conversations about who the Bears will take, as has Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard. The cornerback spot may be something the team will address later in the draft though, as the squad has a bunch of money tied up in Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings for the 2014 season.
If the Bears do decide to go with defensive line help, it will almost assuredly be at the tackle position, and there are a couple of guys who could fit that role nicely. Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan has been one of the most bandied about names when it comes to whom the Bears should select, and Aaron Donald out of Pittsburgh is another guy that has some fans drooling. His 6-foot frame may not be the biggest in the league (it in fact would make him one of the smallest defensive tackles in the league) but he is tremendously strong and has a good amount of quickness to make up for it.
With all of that in mind, it still seems a bit more likely today that the Bears will opt for secondary help in the first round of the draft in the wake of the Allen signing. They still aren’t exactly stout up the middle with guys like Nate Collins, Stephen Paea, and Jeremiah Ratliff in that spot, but they are better off there than they are at safety, or at least in the future, at cornerback. Getting a guy like Clinton-Dix or Dennard would not only add some explosiveness in the Bears for the secondary, but it would also give them a more well-rounded defense than just going defensive line would.
There really aren’t any wrong answers for what defensive spot the Bears should shore up in the first round of the draft, but whatever that answer will be will go a long way toward showing what kind of vision Phil Emery has for that phase of the game.