In 2004, the Chicago Bears acquired Israel Idonije mid-season and placed him on the practice squad. He made the 53-man roster the following year and has been a member of the team ever since.
He became an unrestricted free agent Tuesday. It took the organization a little more than two days to re-sign him.
The Bears have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with Idonije.
The 31-year-old started at defensive end for his second straight season last year, after serving mainly as a special teams player and rotational defensive lineman his first six seasons with the club.
He was solid against the run and had 5.0 sacks in 2011. Yet that number was down from the career-high 8.0 sacks he picked up in 2010.
DE Israel Idonije
Idonije is a team leader and an outstanding locker room presence. He does everything well but nothing great. His performance last season was somewhat disappointing when you consider the attention opposing offenses paid to Julius Peppers.
Chicago's Cover 2 relies on the front four to get pressure on the quarterback, thus avoiding the need to blitz frequently. Five sacks when you're getting one-on-one matchups all game every game just isn't enough production.
It's the reason the Bears tried to sign Jeremy Mincey on Tuesday, who broke out last year with 8.0 sacks. Mincey chose to re-sign with Jacksonville instead.
Yet as a member of a defensive end rotation, Idonije has a lot of value. The problem last year was Chicago's inability to find a productive No. 3 and No. 4 edge rusher. According to Pro Football Focus, Idonije played 944 snaps last year, eighth most amongst defensive ends. That's just too much time on the field for a player on the wrong side of 30.
Pairing Idonije with a pure pass rusher, and thus limiting his reps, would likely allow him to have more success going forward. Which is why it's likely the team will still pursue another defensive end in free agency, possibly Kamerion Wimbley, or in the upcoming NFL Draft.
If that happens, then this is a great move by the team. But if the club plans on playing him 900 snaps next season, everyone will be sorely disappointed.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.