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Will Lovie, Bears look to the draft to find a DE?

Chicago added a WR, but there is still a need at DE. Matt Bowen

Print This March 16, 2012, 05:30 AM EST

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Before free agency started, we posted the draft needs for the Bears and listed WR and DE as their top two priorities this offseason. On Tuesday, new GM Phil Emery upgraded the WR position (and added a No.1 target for QB Jay Cutler) when he traded for Brandon Marshall.

Whitney Mercilus ICONWhitney Mercilus would be a fit in Chicago as a 4-3 rush end.

But what about the DE position? With Mario Williams landing in Buffalo and Jeremy Mincey re-signing in Jacksonville, the free agent market is thin. And outside of taking a look at Kamerion Wimbley if he is cut from the Raiders (or some second tier options on the market), the Bears will have to focus on the April draft.

On Thursday night, the club re-signed veteran Israel Idonije. But to create competition (and add speed) in  Lovie Smith's Tamps 2 defense, the Bears can look to draft a rookie that will rush off the edge (think 3rd downs) opposite Julius Peppers.

And by finding that player through draft, the Bears have the opportunity to get younger on defense and upgrade the pass rush.

A prospect such as Whitney Mercilus. Speed and production (16 sacks) this past season at Illinois. With his stock on the rise, the DE could be an option at No.19 (if he is till on the board). Or, look outside of the first round with Virginia’s Cam Johnson, Clemson's Andre Branch or Marshall’s Vinny Curry. This isn’t a very deep DE class, but there are still prospects to target if the Bears make it a top priority.

When you look at the Xs and Os on the defensive side of the ball, getting that pressure from the front four is crucial to the success of the scheme. Yes, the Bears will use zone (and man) bliz schemes in both their base and nickel packages, but it starts up front. Rush four, play coverage and take away the vertical passing game.

Plenty of time to discuss this as we build up to the draft and work through Pro Days on campus. But after the Bears made some noise with the trade for Marshall to fill a void at WR, they still have to find some help at DE.

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