Bears didn't want to let go of Trevathan's leadership
The Bears had a choice to make after last season: Stick with the incumbent linebackers or make a switch to guys who played well after the starters were injured.
They stuck with the status quo and resigned veteran Danny Trevathan, 30, to a three-year, $21.8-million deal. Inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone shared his take on the decision in a conference call with reporters.
"Listen, I've talked to you before about how I feel about Danny," DeLeone said. "I think Danny's leadership is special. I think it's unique. I also think prior to his injury last year he was playing the best ball he ever played. So I think there's a lot of reasons to bring Danny back and I'm excited about that.
"There aren't many other players that guys look up to like they look up to Danny. I think it raises everybody's levels. He had a lot of ownership in the success the other guys in the room had last year because of the way he led. I know he makes me a better coach."
Trevathan's 2019 season ended in Week 10 with a left elbow injury. By the end of the season, his replacement Nick Kwiatkoski had more tackles and ended up tied for the team lead with 8 tackles for loss.
Kwiatkoski is three years younger, so choosing him over Trevathan was certainly worth considering. The Bears went with the veteran and Kwiatkoski landed a similar three-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders.
The other starting linebacker, Roquan Smith, suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Week 14 against Dallas. Kevin Pierre-Louis started in his spot the rest of the year and also impressed. Pierre-Louis, who had previously started one game in five NFL seasons, was also rewarded with a one-year, $3-million contract from Washington.
"I think like $52 million in new money from our room between Danny, Nick and Kevin, which is pretty cool," DeLeone said. "I'm really proud of those guys."
Now with Kwiatkoski and Pierre-Louis gone, the Bears need to find linebacker depth. Besides Smith and Kwiatkoski, the Bears have drafted just one other inside linebacker in the last seven years and that's Joel Iyiegbuniwe, a fourth-round pick from Western Kentucky in 2018. He's played just 26 snaps on defense over two seasons.
"I am really, really excited about Iggy and Josh Woods and their development," DeLeone said. "Like really, really excited. I can't wait for training camp to watch those two guys play.
"Then Devante Bond, who we signed late in the season last year, I haven't seen Devante play a lot because it was late in the year, but he's been exceptional in these Zoom meetings. And he's played some really good ball in Tampa. So I'm really excited for those three guys."
Woods was an undrafted free agent from Maryland. He spent 2018 on the practice squad and saw action on special teams only last fall. Bond was a sixth-round pick of Tampa Bay in 2016 and started six games for the Bucs before being cut in the middle of last season. The Bears signed him after losing Smith to injury.
So there's work to do with the reserves, but the Bears are obviously hoping Trevathan and Smith can make it through a full season. Smith, a first-round pick in 2018, has been the team's leading tackler in each of his first two seasons and still has room to improve.
DeLeone feels Trevathan's leadership can help bring out the best in all the linebackers. This will also be the second season with defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, which should help.
"I thought (Trevathan) picked up the defense, the intricacies that coach Pagano brought in addition to the carry-over from coach (Vic) Fangio's scheme," DeLeone said. "I thought he did a great job of picking up the intricacies of that. I thought he was phenomenal commanding the group, commanding the huddle."
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