By Brad Biggs, Tribune reporter
7:54 PM CDT, March 24, 2013
The Bears haven't wasted time moving on from Brian Urlacher, signing two linebackers over the weekend to provide a veteran presence for a defense in transition.
Former Panther James Anderson signed a one-year contract Sunday, and he's in position to replace Nick Roach on the strong side. D.J. Williams was added Friday to take Urlacher's familiar place in the middle of the defense.
Anderson, 29, finished sixth in the NFL in tackles in 2011 with 145 and was a cap casualty in Carolina earlier this month, two years after he signed a five-year, $22 million contract with $8.5 million guaranteed. He set a Panthers record with 20 tackles in a game against the Giants last season and holds the team record with 94 games played at linebacker. Of his 53 starts, 44 came on the strong side.
"I am just reaching my peak right now," Anderson said. "I am definitely still in my prime. This is the best I have felt at this point in the offseason in years. I feel like I am on my way up."
Anderson, 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, was hampered by shoulder and back injuries last year and missed the final four games.
"I had a chance to have some time off and all is well, all is healed up," he said. "I had some tightness and some other issues with the lower back, but it was nothing that is going to be an issue going forward. I feel great."
The Bears would have liked to have brought Roach back, but he received a four-year, $13 million contract from the Raiders. Terms of Anderson's one-year deal are not known, but he's a modest addition, and the short term of the contract allows him to potentially enhance his value before hitting the market next year.
Williams, who turns 31 in July, also was signed to a one-year contract, so it is expected the Bears will prioritize adding talent at the position in the draft.
Anderson, a third-round pick from Virginia Tech in 2006, was considered a hard worker and smart player, according to a Panthers source. He realizes entering a position group that was led so long by Urlacher will create great expectations.
"Any time you come into a situation where a guy of (Urlacher's) stature leaves, he's been one of the best there has been, coming in you just have give it all you've got and be the best linebacker you can be," Anderson said. "They have a real tradition of having a great defense and I am looking forward to being a part of that."
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