32-year-old defensive lineman Israel Idonije spent his first nine NFL seasons in the windy city.
On Tuesday, he inked a one-year deal worth $1.05 million with the Detroit Lions.
That means the Bears will be seeing Idonije twice in 2013. The Bears travel to Detroit to battle the Lions in Week Four (Sep. 29). The Lions come to Soldier Field in Week 10 (Nov. 10) for the second and final matchup between the NFC North rivals.
It sure will be weird seeing “Izzy” in Lions blue instead of Bears blue, but the Bears should be able to find a way to fill the void.
The 6’6″, 275 lb DE/DT was a fan favorite in Chicago as his production sky rocketed when he made the transition to defensive end in 2010.
In 2010, we had a chance to talk to Idonije as he prepared for the season.
He revealed his dreams as a kid and his typical pregame ritual.
“I actually wanted to play in the NBA. When I was 13, I wrote in my journal that I was going to play for the Chicago Bulls.”
“I listen to my Michael Jackson mix and eat a chocolate chip cookie.”
He showed what type of character he was in that interview. He was a great guy for the Bears on and off the field.
He contributed so much in the community with his foundation and was always a presence at sporting events in Chicago. He was an avid supporter of the Bulls and Blackhawks especially during the playoffs this season.
He made 50 starts in nine seasons recording 196 tackles, 28.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. 20.5 of his sacks have come at the defensive end position.
The Bears offered Idonije a contract back in April, but it clearly was too low for the veteran lineman. The Bears never said if they took that offer off the table, but they sure seemed content replacing him with cheaper and younger players.
With Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton entrenched as the starters and second-year end Shea McClellin looking to play a bigger role the playing time for Idonije would likely have been minimal if he was brought back.
Defensive ends Turk McBride and Kyle Moore and defensive tackles Sedrick Ellis and Corey Irvin signed with the Bears this off-season. Defensive end Cornelious Washington was selected in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
The overhaul at the defensive line rotation took place with Idonije on the outside looking in.
The Bears opted to add McBride and Moore for about $1.65 million combined over Idonije who will earn $1.05 million with the Lions in 2013.
Moore has a similar frame to Idonije at 6’6″, 263 lbs. He also provides good pressure off the edge which Idonije brought game in and game out.
Idonije added 51 quarterback hurries in 2012, which was three less than Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul according to Pro Football Focus.
The Bears made it clear this off-season that they were willing to add cheaper and younger players over Idonije. The mixture of that and the fact that the playing time wasn’t really there for him led to his departure.
Its sad to see Idonije go, but he will continue to be a presence in the Chicago community considering he still has a home in the area. We won’t be cheering him on when he faces the Bears multiple times this upcoming season, but other weeks we will.
The Bears gambled a bit letting Idonije go, but the additions of some young talent could help this defense play at a high level once again in 2013.
Jake Perper is the founder and head writer of Bearsbacker.com. Follow him on Twitter, @Bearsbacker and on Facebook for up to the minute news about the Chicago Bears.