Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery held a conference call with season-ticket holders yesterday. When asked about the possible return of defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, currently an unrestricted free agent, Emery did not sound optimistic.
"Right now, Amobi is trying to decide which direction he is going," Emery said. "We've had conversations with him. So far, we have not been able to work out a deal. Amobi is probably going in a different direction."
Okoye was signed to a one-year deal last offseason. He shared reps at the 3-technique spot with Henry Melton. The two combined for 11 sacks, the most of any Bears DT duo since 1995.
DT Amobi Okoye
Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire
Okoye was a former first-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2007, yet the team released him following the 2010 season after they switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme. Up to that point, many considered him a bust. Yet his work with Chicago defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli did him good and appears to have revived his career.
He has received interest from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, and has a visit scheduled with the Cincinnati Bengals.
With the Bears low on salary cap space, it’s likely they will need to address defensive tackle in the upcoming draft.
"Between free agency and the draft we have to find a way to meet our needs," Emery said. “We're always looking for playmakers. So, if one of those playmakers happens to be a defensive lineman and we're in position to draft one, we may do that."
Carimi on track
Bears offensive tackle Gabe Carimi missed 14 games last season due to a dislocated knee that required multiple surgeries. In February, Carimi said his knee was pain free and will likely be ready for the start of Chicago’s offseason training activities. He is currently rehabbing five days a week at Halas Hall.
"[Carimi] has been working tremendously hard," Emery said. "I have had a chance to visit with him a couple times and watch him rehab. We're very excited that he's coming back. He's going to really help solidify our offensive line."
Carimi was easily the club’s best offensive lineman when on the field last year. He’s a mauler on the edge that should provide a big boost up front.
Unfortunately, Johnny Knox isn’t as far along in his recovery from spinal surgery.
"He has made progress and will continue to make progress. As I've told him, ultimately it'll be him that will decide when he comes back," Emery said. "It'll be him telling us where he's at in the rehab process.
News broke last week that Knox will start the season on the PUP list, which will keep him out of action for at least the first six weeks of 2012. The team has yet to confirm the report.
“We're a long way from having to make that decision and we're going to lean heavily on Johnny helping us make that decision,” said Emery. “Johnny's made every effort to get back as quick as he can, and he is making progress. Yeah, you want to be cautious because it was a tough injury. It was a heavy-contact injury. Johnny understands where he's at. He's going to keep pushing forward, and there couldn't be a Bear with a better attitude than him."
Knox will likely be replaced by Devin Hester, although newcomers Eric Weems and Devin Thomas, both signed this offseason, will challenge for playing time. The Bears could also add a receiver in the draft.
No news is good news for Marshall
Two days before the Bears traded for receiver Brandon Marshall, the mercurial receiver was allegedly involved in an altercation outside of a New York City nightclub. He allegedly punched a woman in the eye.
Yet there has been very little news on the incident since the initial reports came out. One media outlet said the woman accusing Marshall had gone into hiding.
Harvey Steinberg, Marshall's attorney, told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday that police had yet to contact him with any follow-up to their investigation.
The regular season is still many months away, and anything could happen before then, but right now, it looks unlikely that the league will suspend Marshall.
Urlacher will be ready to go
Future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher was injured in the season finale last year. A collision with safety Major Wright caused Urlacher to land awkwardly on his left knee. He was diagnosed with a sprained MCL.
Urlacher spoke with the Chicago Sun Times on Tuesday at Nike’s unveiling of the new NFL uniforms and apparel in New York. He said he’ll be healthy come OTAs.
"[My knee is] doing really good," Urlacher said. "I’m just doing what I’m told. When it’s time to go, I’ll be ready to go. There’s no reason to rush it."
The 33-year-old is entering the final year of a five-year, $40.6 million contract. Yet he’s not concerned about a new deal getting done.
"There’s no doubt in my mind I’ll finish my career with the Bears," he said. "However that works out, it works out. I can’t imagine playing anywhere else."
Bears interested in Steinbach
According to ESPNChicago.com, the Bears are interested in free agent guard Eric Steinbach.
Steinbach is 32 years old and missed all of last season after undergoing offseason surgery on his back. The Browns asked him to reduce his pay but he refused, so the team cut him on March 14.
Steinbach has started 124 games for the Browns and Bengals during his career. He’s considered one of the better offensive guards in the league. Yet his back injury, coupled with his age, has reduced his value in the eyes of many throughout the NFL.
The Bears showed last month, when they hosted former Vikings offensive lineman Anthony Herrera, they are looking to improve the guard position.
Chicago ranked No. 30 in the league when it came to running the ball up the middle last season, averaging a mere 3.3 yards per carry and failing to break off a single 20-yard plus run, according to ESPN Stats & Information. So it’s no surprise they are trying to upgrade the interior.
Other teams interested in Steinbach include the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens. He has not scheduled any official visits.
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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.