Originally posted on Midway Illustrated  |  Last updated 4/19/12

The Bears today announced the signing of weak-side linebacker Geno Hayes formerly of the Tampa Bay Bucs.  Hayes a four year veteran of the NFL has racked up a pretty decent resume in his time in Tampa and could wind up competing with Nick Roach for the starting strong side linebacker spot.

From the Chicago Bears' official release:

Hayes has started 42 of 56 games played at weakside linebacker for Tampa Bay over four seasons (2008-11) after being selected by the Bucs in the sixth round (175th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. The 6-1, 226-pound linebacker out of Florida State has collected 334 tackles (231 solo), 36 tackles for losses, seven sacks, four interceptions – including one returned for a touchdown, 16 pass break ups, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in his NFL career. He has added nine special teams stops and a blocked punt which he returned for a touchdown.

Hayes has 29.5 stuffs - a tackle of a rusher for negative yards – according to STATS, second most in the NFL since entering the league in 2008. He led the league with 11 stuffs in 2009 and finished tied for second with 11.5 in 2010.

In 2011, Hayes started 13 of 16 games played, finishing third on the team with 86 tackles and seven tackles for losses, adding one interception and two forced fumbles.

Hayes' arrival in Chicago brings instant legitimate depth to the Bears' linebackers.  His play has been at a level that represents a solid level contribution to the Bucs defense.  Hayes' familiarity with the Bears' defense means he should be a plug and play type of player who comes in and competes immediately.

This signing also makes the Bears' draft plans all the more apparent.  The desire to find a pass rushing DE opposite Julius Peppers still exists as does a need for another defensive tackle.  As reported earlier the Bears have been high on both DT Michael Brockers and DE Whitney Mercilus and will likely target them at the 19th overall selection.

The one thing to keep an eye on is by filling out the roster with veterans who already fit the system and are looking to jump start their careers the Bears are addressing needs that were once thought to be draft needs.  The key thing now is watching the Matt Forte situation and realizing that the Bears could potentially look to trade up in the draft.

Free agency signings have filled draft needs which could meaning using draft picks to trade up in the draft to target a specific player.  Is that player DT Fletcher Cox; perhaps if Matt Khalil starts to fall in the draft the Bears consider moving up to take a franchise LT?

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