The Chicago Bears have signed linebacker D.J. Williams. Williams, 30, is a former first-round draft pick (17th overall) of the Broncos in 2004. He has spent his entire nine-year career in Denver.
He has been the full-time starter at both middle and outside linebacker in Denver since he was drafted. Yet last season he started just one game, playing in only seven total contests due to two suspensions: six games for violating the league's substance abuse policy and three for a his second DUI.
He was due $6 million this year and the Broncos chose to cut him last week. The Bears signed Williams to an incentive-laden contract with just $900,000 in base salary. None of his contract is guaranteed and he could make up to $1.75 million if he earns all of his bonuses.
Williams (6-1, 242) will replace Brian Urlacher, who parted ways with the franchise two days ago, as Chicago's middle linebacker. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams has been very inconsistent during his career and is better in coverage than he is against the run. The off-field problems are concerning as well, as is the fact he's coming into a new defense - Denver runs a 3-4.
Williams does have plenty of experience, having started 115 games in his career. If he can get his head on straight, he could be very effective amidst the Bears' veteran defense.
This move doesn't preclude GM Phil Emery from drafting an early round linebacker in this year's draft but it does gives him other options. Coming into today, the Bears had roughly $5.1 million in cap space. Williams' cost-effective deal still allows Emery a little room to maneuver in free agency.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.