With free agency set to open March 11, we’ll shine the spotlight on the Bears’ free agents and examine each player’s likelihood to return. Today, we focus on a relatively new Bear, Jeremiah Ratliff.
Check out previous spotlights:
Position: Defensive tackle
Age (As of Sept. 1, 2014): 33
NFL seasons logged (with Bears): 9 (1)
2013 stats: Played in 5 games with 4 starts after signing on 11/2. Had 9 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 TFLs and 5 QB hits.
“Jeremiah Ratliff played well for us and we certainly want to entertain that discussion with him. So there will be a blend, but our overall age as a defense will be younger.” – Phil Emery to reporters on Jan. 2
“He gives us some stoutness in the front. He’s active. He plays the nose, he can also play the three. I think he’s become more comfortable in the assignments and what we’re asking him to do within the defense. He’s a good team guy. He brings some energy to that group and a veteran presence, so he’s fitting in nicely, doing a nice job for us. “ – Mel Tucker to reporters on Dec. 23
Fit with Bears: The Bears have only one player under contract for 2014 on the defensive interior, and that’s Stephen Paea. Ratliff came in and clearly made an impact in limited time late last season, especially against the Browns. Ratliff fits well into a defense that will use multiple fronts, considering he played in a 3-4 defense in Dallas. The Bears also hired Paul Pasqualoni to coach the defensive line, and those two worked together with the Cowboys. Here’s what Ratliff said about Pasqualoni in 2010: “He’s so intense. And one of the things that makes him a great coach is it’s almost like he’s not a coach just here. He lives it. He’s almost legendary.” ESPN Chicago reported that talks have already been underway between the Bears and Ratliff’s representation, so there appears to be a mutual interest.
Financials: At his age and still fresh off an injury that kept him off the field for most of the past two seasons, Ratliff is not going to break the bank. He should seek a two-year contract. For reference, three defensive tackles signed deals in recent seasons at the age of 32 (Ratliff turns 33 in late August). Tommy Kelly signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Patriots, Aubrayo Franklin a one-year, $1.105 million deal with the Colts and Cullen Jenkins had the top contract, a three-year, $8 million deal with the Giants with $3.1 million guaranteed. Ratliff’s contract may also depend on the future of Henry Melton, who would fetch a larger paycheck to return to the Bears.
Best guess: Even though he has logged by far the shortest amount of time with the Bears, Ratliff appears to be one of their targets to re-sign. He has the versatility to play in any front, was effective in the last month of the season and adds a veteran to a defensive locker room that is going to get younger. There were reportedly a few teams interested in Ratliff last year after the Cowboys cut him, so there could be a market, but he seemed to enjoy Chicago and would get to work with Pasqualoni again.