Roach Wants to Remain With Bears.............
Roach wants to stay with Bears
Club will have to act quickly at linebacker once free agency starts
http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...7/63391762.jpg Linebacker Nick Roach leaves the game in the second half against the Raiders at Soldier Field. (Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune / August 21, 2010)
By Vaughn McClure, Chicago Tribune reporter 9:11 p.m. CDT, July 20, 2011
Despite 30 starts over the last three seasons, Nick Roach seems to be the forgotten man in the Bears' linebacker rotation.
That would explain why the Bears approached this offseason with thoughts of securing another starting strong-side linebacker alongside Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Roach wasn't offended. "I guess you can't really blame them,'' he said, "because I'm not under contract.''
At least not yet.
As the NFL inches closer to a new collective bargaining agreement and the start of free agency, the Bears have to prioritize their roster needs. The 26-year-old Roach might not top the list, but the Bears might seek to re-sign him for security at the position.
Pisa Tinoisamoa, who started 10 games at strong-side last season, is recovering from major offseason knee surgery and all indications are the 30-year-old free agent would be limited at best in training camp if the Bears decided to bring him back.
Plus with the late start to free agency, a targeted free-agent such as the Seahawks' Leroy Hill might be hard to scoop up if the Bears aren't willing to invest immediately.
The Bears drafted linebacker J.T. Thomas in the sixth round, but Hunter Hillenmeyer (concussion) is no longer in the mix and free-agent Brian Iwuh's status remains unclear. Thus, overall depth at linebacker is an issue, period.
Under the new CBA, Roach, entering his fifth season, will be an unrestricted free agent (four-plus year of service) after being restricted under last season's rule (six-plus seasons). He earned $1.684 million in 2010 after signing a one-year tender.
It's no secret the Northwestern alum wants to remain with the Bears, but he also wants a fair deal.
"I love it here,'' he said. "It has been great to know these guys, to play with a historical pair such as Brian and Lance.
"But I understand, too, that part of the business is that you're going to have to move around. And I didn't start off here. Moving on is something that I realize could happen.''
The Bears have researched other options such as Hill, a player on whom Bears director of player personnel Tim Ruskell decided to use the franchise tag while he was the general manager in Seattle. But the Bears might not be willing to overpay for a two-down player considering the strong-side linebacker comes off the field in the nickel defense.
Hill, 28, surely wants to be paid like a three-down linebacker although he restructured his six-year, $36 million contract last year and made a base of $2.125 million (as opposed to $6 million) in '10. And Hill, who missed almost all of last season with an Achilles' injury, has had off-the-field issues in the past and might be a risk.
Roach has been relatively healthy and doesn't have to be spectacular playing next to Urlacher and Briggs. The only knock against him was his inability to take over the huddle as the middle linebacker when Urlacher missed the '09 season with a broken wrist.
However the Bears proceed, they hope to find stability. Since Urlacher took the middle in 2000, the Bears have had 11 starters at strong-side linebacker. That's a pattern they would like to end.
Maybe the forgotten Roach will be the answer.