The Bears are planning to move Israel Idonije outside to defensive end but just last week during an OTA there he was lined up as a starter at tackle.
No, the move has not been called off. Rather, Idonije remains valuable because of his versatility and that was one of the main factors that had to play into the club's decision to give him a two-year extension Friday worth $7 million. Although the plan is to play him at end this season, he will no doubt be called upon to take his turn inside and that was the case last week with Tommie Harris and Marcus Harrison sidelined.
Idonije, whose position switch we detailed here 2 1/2 months ago, will get $3 million guaranteed in the new contract that keeps him in place through 2011. The Bears knew prior to the scouting combine that Idonije was hoping to get a new contract.
"It was a smooth deal,'' agent Drew Rosenhaus said. "Going into the season Izzy is projected to be one of the team's top backups and this deal enables him to stay in Chicago where he loves the organization. It's a short-term contract and should he develop into a starter there is flexibility for him.''
With Idonije dropping weight for the move outside, he will likely take on an expanded role on special teams. He got away from that some last season, particularly on coverage teams. He was on the field for 50 percent of the special teams plays last season after participating in 64 percent of them in 2007. His tackles dropped from eight to four, and he had double-digit special teams tackles as recently as 2006.
Now, the Bears have only two defensive ends headed to free agency after the season--left end Adewale Ogunleye and Mark Anderson. Idonije probably projects best as a backup to Ogunleye but there is no telling at this point how the rotation will wind up working. We broke down how playing time was divided on the defensive line in 2008 at the beginning of this month. Idonije was on the field for 42.75 percent of the snaps, but his playing time dipped in the final six weeks.