NFL general managers are required to use their heads, not their hearts, when it comes to targeting potential free agents. That is why re-signing veteran middle linebacker D.J. Williams is a necessity for the Chicago Bears in 2014.
Granted, he doesn't have the equity built up in Chicago like popular former Pro Bowlers Charles Tillman and Henry Melton, but Williams' absence this season because of a season-ending torn pectoral muscle hurt the defense as much as any other injury the unit suffered over the course of 2013.
The Bears wanted Williams to be their middle linebacker in 2013, not rookie second-round draft choice Jon Bostic, who despite flashing his considerable speed and athleticism on occasion, predictably struggled at times to figure out where he needed to be on a given play.
Williams has been in the NFL for 11 years. To put it simply, he's seen it all on the football field. If Williams had been able to stay healthy, the Bears defense would have been more organized and therefore more efficient, particularly in the area of stopping the run.
Williams had health issues in 2013. He suffered a severe calf injury at the beginning of training camp, and while he returned in time to start Week 1 of the regular season, he failed to regain his old form until right around the time he was placed on injured reserve with the pectoral injury.
Williams is a health risk.
But he's also a veteran who is likely to re-sign for one year at a league minimum price. That is important when you consider how much cap space the Bears already have allocated to free-agent re-signees Jay Cutler, Tim Jennings, Matt Slauson and Robbie Gould. With Williams back in the fold, the Bears can move Bostic to strongside linebacker, a position he seems better suited for, according to general manager Phil Emery.
Williams, Bostic and Lance Briggs give the Bears a solid starting linebacker trio on paper.
To recap: Williams wants to return, the Bears need him, and he comes at a discounted price.
If that's not the definition of a no-brainer, I'm not sure what is.
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.