The Chicago Bears signed former Dallas Cowboy Jay Ratliff last week. And while that’s what certainly garnered most of the headlines from Chicago media outlets, an underlying positive to the deal lies.
Especially if your name is Corey Wooton.
The Bears have been decimated on the defensive line this season, to put it lightly. In terms of injuries and a simple lack of talent.
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton was lost for the season with an ACL tear. Backup Nate Collins has since been lost for the season. Stephen Paea has dealt with a nagging toe injury and Landon Cohen sounds as though he belongs in a trendy new boy band.
It doesn’t get much prettier when you move to the exterior of the defensive line (unless we’re talking about Shea McClelin’s hair). But in terms of talent, McClelin doesn’t appear to be an NFL-caliber defensive end. And hopefully now that Halloween has passed, Julius Peppers won’t put on his best impression of a ghost this Monday.
In short, the Bears’ defensive line has been as bad this year as the last joke of the previous bright spot. But who is the one bright spot, you ask?
Look no further than Corey Wooton.
It really can’t be overestimated how appreciated Wooton should be to the Bears front office, coaches and fans. Not only has he been the best player on the defensive line, but he’s not even playing his natural position. He’s been forced to play on the inside due to the decimated middle of the line.
Why does this matter? Well folks, a Northwestern degree (Wooton’s alma matter) can get you a lot on this life. But it can’t match the contract Wooton had the potential to receive had he stayed at his natural position, where he seemed poised for a monster season after a very solid 2012 campaign.
Listen, I think the Jay Ratliff signing is great. It’s a low risk, high reward endeavor. But he’s not going to be ready to play for a few weeks, and if you believe the Bears are going to take down the Packers at Lambeau Field tomorrow night, you’re likely either Mike Ditka on an ESPN NFL Countdown pregame show or you’re just in denial.
The best part of the Ratliff signing is allowing Wooton to be a full time defensive end, where he belongs.
God bless Wooton’s heart. Even with a solid showing in the last five or six games at the end of the season, he’s probably not going to strike it big on an increasingly strict free agent market. But the move will certainly help a struggling Bears defense.
And just by default, the more we see of Wooton at defensive end, the less we’ll see of Shea McClelin…. Well, anywhere. And I don’t see how anyone could possibly argue that would be a bad thing.
Phil Emery has done an admirable job in his stint as Bears general manager, but the McClelin gaffe was by far his worst.
Still, Wooton proving he can become a force at one of the end spot will make Emery’s job a heck of a lot easier when he tries to re-structure the defense this offseason.
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