Bears Call On D.J. To Play Brian's Song
Not only were the Chicago Bears quick to find a partner after their mutual divorce from Brian Urlacher, but in veteran free agent D.J. Williams, they liked to believe they had found a younger, less expensive version of the middle linebacker he was likely to replace next season.
Williams agreed to come to Chicago for less than half the $2 million salary that Urlacher had been offered for next season. The one-year agreement calls for a $900,000 base salary and another $1.75 million in bonus clauses. At 30, he is more than four years younger than Urlacher, who will turn 35 later this spring.
The Denver Broncos released Williams earlier this month, partly because of his $6-million salary for next season and partly because of personal problems that limited him to seven games in the most recent one.
Williams led the Broncos in tackles in five of his nine seasons, during which he had stints at all four linebacker positions. They selected him in the first round of the 2004 draft.
“We are happy to welcome D.J. to the Bears and are excited to start working with him," general manager Phil Emery said in a prepared statement. “This is a great opportunity for D.J. to restart his career after coming off suspension for part of the 2012 season. We see a player that has very good athletic upside who can contribute immediately at mike (middle) linebacker. He is also a versatile player who has played both outside linebacker positions, giving us flexibility in the draft.”
Williams will return to the middle linebacker spot that he last played in the 2007 season, when he posted the best statistics of his career -- 141 tackles, two forced fumbles and one sack. Prior to last season, he was responsible for the defensive calls from the weak-side position in the 4-3 alignment.
In the 2004 to 2011 seasons, Williams and Urlacher had statistics that were eerily similar. Williams totaled 611 tackles and 20.5 sacks in that span, while Urlacher had 601 and 20.5, respectively.
Whether Williams will be any match for Urlacher in the areas of dependability and leadership is another matter entirely. The University of Miami product comes off a rocky season in which he played sparingly as a result of two suspensions that totaled nine games.
Last March the league found Williams and two other Broncos players to be in violation of its banned-substances policy. He contended that his specimen had been compromised.
Later three games were added to the original six-game suspension after a jury convicted Williams of driving while impaired in a 2010 case. By the time he returned to active duty, Wesley Woodyard had claimed his starter role at outside linebacker. He did not record a sack or an interception last season.
Five years earlier, Williams pleaded guilty to a DUI charge after he was pulled over with his headlights off in Denver in the early morning. He was ordered to perform 24 hours of community service.
“'It's the nature of the business,” Broncos safety David Bruton said of his former teammate. “Guys change, things change. D.J. is still a young player. He was a great teammate. He'll definitely make it somewhere and he'll continue to make plays because whenever he stepped on the field here, he made plays. Best of luck to him. He has been a great player and a good teammate. Just his time was up here.”