The Chicago Bears yesterday signed defensive end Austen Lane, a former fifth-round selection of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010, to a one-year deal. Lane played under Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker his first three years in the league. Under Tucker, Lane played in 28 games with 17 starts, tallying 46 total tackles, 3.0 sacks and one forced fumble.
After Tucker left Jacksonville for Chicago, the Jaguars waived Lane. He was claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Chiefs last June but was cut before the season. He later played two games for Detroit in November before the Lions released him, which made him available before the start of unrestricted free agency on March 11.
Lane was a decorated collegiate player at Murray State but has yet to make an impact in the NFL. Sports Illustrated readers likely know Lane more for his stint as writer for SI’s MMQB than anything he’s done on a pro football field. In his column, Lane shows maturity and wisdom beyond his age, so he should make a great interview, but as a football player, he’s a long shot.
Tucker worked with Lane for three seasons and got very little production out of him, while two teams have cut Lane since the two parted. There is obviously familiarity between coach and player but if it didn’t work in Jacksonville, why would anything be different in Chicago?
It’s a situation very familiar to the one in Atlanta, where the Falcons yesterday signed former Bears first-round offensive lineman Gabe Carimi. Mike Tice, Chicago’s offensive line coach in 2010 when Carimi was drafted, spearheaded the campaign for Carimi coming out of Wisconsin. A dislocated kneecap stunted for the former Wisconsin Badger’s development and Tice could not build him back up.
Last offseason, the Bears traded Carimi to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a fourth-round draft pick, just a few months after firing Tice.
In both Chicago and Atlanta, miracle workers are hoping to yank rabbits out of their hats. NFL coaches, and many NFL executives, are a stubborn bunch and it appears Tice and Tucker won’t let go of their pet projects.
The Bears have serious needs at defensive end. Julius Peppers may end up a cap casualty, Corey Wootton is set to hit free agency and Shea McClellin will be shifted to linebacker. The team could conceivably enter this season without it’s top three edge rushers from 2013. So it makes sense to throw a few bodies at the problem, which is where Lane comes in.
If Tucker is can do with Lane in Chicago what he was unable to in Jacksonville, then the move makes a lot of sense. But for a player with just 3.0 sacks in 28 career games, Bears fans, as well as Falcons fans, shouldn’t get their hopes up.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is entering his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.