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Bears Sign Anderson As Stop-gap Solution

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(Photo by Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images)

The Chicago Bears can only hope James Anderson and D.J. Williams plug the gaps as quickly as the front office did at the linebacker position last weekend.

Anderson and the Bears came to terms on a one-year, $1.25-million contract on Sunday, a move that rounded out the first unit in the 4-3 alignment for next season. The 29-year-old veteran will take the place of strong-side linebacker Nick Roach, who signed with the Oakland Raiders last week. He became a free agent after the Carolina Panthers released him earlier this month.

The arrival of Anderson came two days after Williams also was signed to a one-year deal to replace Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker. Holdover Lance Briggs will man the weak side once again.

Anderson and Williams signing short-term deals was an indication that the position could undergo significant changes as early as this time next year. Briggs is about to enter the second year of a three-year, $17.5-million agreement. All three will have turned 30 years or older early next season.

In the meantime, the rapid-fire moves won't alter general manager Phil Emery's plan to select a linebacker in the early rounds of the draft next month.

“Any day anybody’s number could be up,” said Anderson, who played more games (94) than any linebacker in Panthers history. "Next year it could be someone else. I don’t think they’re doubting the fact that I could play and can continue to be a productive player. It was just one of those moves.”

In Carolina, Anderson was the victim of a numbers game on and off the field.

The Panthers had Jon Beason, Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly to fill three spots. That left them to decide between Anderson and Beason, a three-time Pro Bowler who sat out most of the last two seasons because of knee and shoulder problems. While Anderson had three years left on a five-year, $22-million deal, the organization had made a much greater financial commitment to Beason, who signed a five-year, $50 million extension two years ago. 

There also was some concern about a back problem that forced Anderson to sit out the final four games of last season. The Virginia Tech product totaled 72 tackles in 12 games, all except one as a starter. He did not have a sack or an interception.

Anderson assured the organization that he would be fit to answer the bell, and a recent physical examination appeared to confirm as much.

“I feel better this off-season than I’ve felt in years,” Anderson said.