Continuing the break down of the Bears 53-man roster prediction as we get ready to start the training camp preview series we come to the defense. Taking a look at the defense we can see where the most turnover is likely to occur after the 2013 season. There are a lot of free agents, and possible free agents that are a part of the 2013 53-man roster prediction. Either one of the two things is likely to occur, Emery is going to have to work extremely hard to retain the young and talented players on the defense or he's going to completely gut the roster of the Tampa-2 one-gap defensive personnel and go with his own defensive vision for the team.
Based on the personnel my guess is the latter, that Emery is going to jettison most of Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith's players and bring in his own players. This means that Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings aren't likely to be resigned due to be veterans in the late stages of their careers, Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers will be cut because of their massive salary cap numbers and Corey Wootton and Henry Melton won't be re-signed because they're value on the open market will be more than Emery can stomach. The guess here is both Melton and Wootton don't fit into Emery's vision for the defense, which became immediately clear when Shea McClellin became Emery's signature pick in 2012.
Anyway before we get too much further along let's look at the defense and how it's set to change after the 2013 season.
DTs (5) Stephen Paea (2016) Henry Melton (2014) Nate Collins (2014) Sedrick Ellis (2014) Corey Irvin (2014)
It's hard to predict exactly who the fifth and final defensive tackle will be for the 2013 season so I simply went with the guy who has already earned a training camp roster spot and is a veteran presence on the roster in Irvin. I'm convinced that Henry Melton will not be back after the 2014 season and neither will any of the three backups in Collins, Ellis and Irvin. Paea has just enough versatility to play as either a two-gap or a one-gap defensive tackle where as the other four are clearly one gap players. Since Emery's philosophy is to not limit his defense two one scheme (Bears have been one-gap since 2004) Emery will take his chances on the open market finding versatile players that fit into his system.
The alternative is Emery may be predicting that the open market won't value Henry Melton as much as Melton values himself and he'll be back as a result of that. I think that's fool hardy given how highly valued pass rushing defensive tackles are becoming and how teams are preferring to go with 4-3 defenses more than they are going with a true old fashioned 3-4 defense. Many teams in the NFL call themselves a 3-4 defense but they play more 4-3 than they do 3-4. Among those teams are the Patriots, Ravens, and Packers who play more 4-3. Also apparent is how quickly members of Lovie Smith's former defensive coaching staff landed jobs or were promoted to new jobs. Rod Marinelli went to Dallas with Monte Kiffin who landed back in the NFL, and Bob Babich takes over as defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Teams that aspire to get a pass rush from the front four while playing seven in coverage out of a 4-3 defense will covet Melton who will set the market for the players to come.
DEs (5) Julius Peppers (2016) Corey Wootton (2014) Shea McClellin (2016) Cornelius Washington (2017)
Peppers and Wootton are both gone after the 2013 season, Peppers to clear cap space, and Wootton because he doesn't fit the versatile profile that Emery envisions his defense having. McClellin and Washington are two top notch athletes that Emery likely envisions playing either the 3-4 edge rush role or a 4-3 base end role within his defense. Wootton will also price himself right out of the Bears' range and Emery is counting on his late round steal to be Washington. If Washington plays as well as McClellin did in 2012 it wouldn't shock me at all to see Emery go into 2014 with McClellin and Washington as his starting defensive ends. A complete shock to the system for most Bears fans, but something I see happening based on what we've seen in the preseason with Mel Tucker's plans for the defense and Emery's draft picks.
LBs (7) Lance Briggs (2015) DJ Williams (2014) James Anderson (2014) Jon Bostic (2017) Khaseem Greene (2017) JT Thomas (2015) Blake Costanzo (2014).
Briggs carries a $4.75-million base salary for the 2014 season this is his last season in a Chicago Bears uniform no matter how well he plays. The other two potential veteran starters are cheap expendable options who are window dressing in trying to keep the 4-3 defense intact. Greene and Bostic both will be starting in 2014 with either another young draftee starting at SAM or another cheap free agent option. Either way things will look different in 2014 as Emery's mold on defense begins to take shape.
CBs (5) Charles Tillman (2014 Tim Jennings (2014) Kelvin Hayden (2014) Zack Bowman (2014) Sherrick McMannis (2014)
The defensive purge will continue in the secondary where the top four cornerbacks all project into one system, the Cover-2. Tillman will be considered too old, Jennings production from a year ago will fall off enough that Emery can justify not signing him. Hayden and Bowman are gone for both being old and system fits that Emery has no intention keeping around long-term. Emery will likely rely on Chris Conte to help stabilize a completely revamped CB position group in 2014. The defensive production and stability will take a significant nose dive from where Bears fans are comfortable after the 2013 season because there will be youth and inexperience at the CB position. There is absolutely no transition ready in the secondary so the next three years could see the Bears giving up a ton of passing yards until Emery's new breed get a handle on playing in the NFL.
Safeties (5) Major Wright (2014), Chris Conte (2015), Brandon Hardin (2016), Craig Steltz (2014)
Major Wright is playing his last season in a Chicago Bears uniform no matter how well he plays in 2013, again another Lovie Smith system fit but not a Phil Emery system fit. Hardin will be expected to come in and start right away in 2014 no matter how bad or good he looks during the 2013 season. Hardin is Emery's player and athlete who can't play football, who will be expected to be coached up to play football by whomever the secondary coach is in 2014. Jon Hoke will be gone after the 2013 season and Tucker if he's still around will bring in his guy.
K Austin Signor (2014) Tress Way, Patrick Mannely
I suspect there will be a complete turnover at this position in 2013 with Gould moving on to another team who will pay him more than what the Bears will and are wanting a stable veteran kicking field goals for them. Emery let his intentions be known when he signed Signor to a three-year deal. Unless Signor completely chokes in camp his price tag plus Emery's confidence in him will be a shock to Bears fans who love Gould's consistency. Way wins the punting battle because Podlesh's won't be able to overcome the bad taste in Emery's mouth from the 2012 season.