Lions add former Bear Israel Idonije to defensive line
After spending the majority of his career with the Chicago Bears, Idonije is ready to move on to their NFC North rival as he was not re-signed by the team this offseason. Bears general manager Phil Emery stated at the NFL combine in February that the team intended to re-sign Idonije but at a reduced price. Last season, he made $2.5 million with the Bears.
"He's done a number of good things and had a number of good games both outside and inside," Emery said back then. "He's a guy we will sit down with and talk to about coming back. He's got versatility, and that's a positive thing for Izzy. He's done a good job for us."
But moving further into the offseason, it became apparent that the Bears will likely enter the 2013 season without Idonije as the team signed a handful of defensive linemen to one-year veteran-minimum deals over the past few months.
Idonije also attracted some interest on the open market from the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers before committing to the Lions.
The 32-year-old Idonije entered the league as a undrafted free agent out of Manitoba before signing to the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad in 2003. However, he was released by Browns in mid-season and ended up signing with the Bears instead.
Idonije initially played on the special teams and as a reserve defensive lineman for the first six-season in Chicago. But he worked his way up the depth chart to emerge as the Bears’ starting defensive end in 2010 and finished the season with 49 tackles, 3 passes defensed and a career-high eight sacks. Over the past two seasons, Idonije combined 12.5 sacks while splitting time between defensive end and left tackle in the Bears’ nickel package.
The 10th-year veteran Idonije was moved to defensive tackle last season after the Bears selected defensive end Shea McClellin with the 19th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Idonije notched 48 tackles and 7.5 sacks while starting 11 games in the Bears’ defensive line last season.
Idonije’s versatility will come in handy in Detroit, playing under defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who likes to rotate his linemen to keep them fresh. In short, Idonije will add depth at both defensive end and defensive tackle positions across a well-stocked Lions’ defensive line that already includes the likes of Nick Fairley, Ndamukong Suh, Jason Jones and fifth-round pick Ezekiel Ansah.