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Williams moves in to replace Urlacher

Published: Saturday, March 23, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

At some point, the Bears will honor Brian Urlacher as one of the team’s all-time greats.

But the process of replacing him at middle linebacker has begun.

The Bears agreed to a one-year contract with veteran D.J. Williams on Friday. Williams, 30, was released by Denver on March 11 after spending nine years with the Broncos.

Terms of the deal were not announced. The Bears offered Urlacher a one-year, $2 million contract this week, which the 13-year-veteran referred to as an ultimatum. According to the Chicago Tribune, Williams has a base salary of $900,000 but could earn up to $1.76 million with incentives. Williams was scheduled to make $6 million if he returned to the Broncos.

“We see a player that has very good athletic upside who can contribute immediately at ‘Mike’ (middle) linebacker,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said in a statement issued Friday by the Bears.

“He is also a versatile player who has played both outside linebacker positions, giving us flexibility in the draft.”

Williams missed nine games last season. He was suspended six games for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy and another three games after being arrested for a second time for driving under the influence.

He led the Broncos in tackles in five of his nine seasons in Denver, where he played both inside and outside linebacker. He made 816 tackles and registered 20.5 sacks. He had a career-high 141 tackles in 2007.

Williams is a former first-round draft pick in 2004 out of Miami. He is the latest free-agent signing by the Bears, who have signed left tackle Jermon Bushrod, tight ends Martellus Bennett and Steve Maneri along with defensive end Turk McBride in the past 11 days.

“Chi-Town here I come!,” he tweeted along with including a photo Friday. “I had a great time in Denver these past 9 years i thank #broncocountry for all.”

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