The Bears continued to solidify their defensive line on Tuesday by welcoming back a familiar face, Israel Idonije.
Idonije signed a one-year contract to return to a place he calls home.
“It’s good to be back home,” Idonije said in an interview with ChicagoBears.com. “I’m excited to get back to work and get things rolling. I’ve spent 11 years here in Chicago, so it’s exciting to be able to come back home and reconnect with a great city and a great football program.”
Idonije worked his way up in his first go-around with the Bears. He started as a practice squad player in 2003. He made it on the 53-man roster in 2004 as a special teams player, and stayed on the team until 2012, eventually becoming a starter.
While with the Bears, he had 196 tackles, 28.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries in 134 games, 50 of them starts.
Last season, he left “home” and played for the Detroit Lions. He did not have a season to remember. He did not play much, registering just seven tackles and half a sack.
Idonije feels great to be back. “It feels like I’m coming back home as far as playing football for a club that has been near and dear to my heart and has been part of my life for a decade.”
Phil Emery has said he wanted to add depth, youth and flexibility to a defense that was one of the worst in franchise history. While Idonije might not add youth, he does add depth and flexibility. He can play the end, but also move to the inside.
Idonije is the latest piece in the revamp of the line. The Bears re-signed Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins, and signed Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. They also let go of Henry Melton and Julius Peppers.
The makeover is not over yet, however. There is still a need for a defensive tackle, and that looks like it will happen through the draft in May. For now, Bears fans are happy to welcome back an old friend.