Bears trade up 2 spots, take LB Floyd with 9th pick in draft
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) - The Chicago Bears were looking for playmakers on defense and someone who could take down quarterbacks.
They are counting on Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd to do just that.
The Bears took Floyd with the ninth pick in Thursday's draft after trading up two spots in a deal with Tampa Bay. Chicago sent the 11th pick along with a fourth-rounder to the Buccaneers.
"He just brings a great athleticism for a guy that tall with that kind of length, brings some juice to our defense that we need and will definitely help our pass rush," general manager Ryan Pace said.
The Bears, coming off a 6-10 season, had been talking for two days with Tampa Bay and thought he might be taken before the 11th pick. So they moved up to get him.
The 6-foot-6, 244-pound Floyd is long and elusive off the edge and could put up bigger numbers in Chicago than he did in college. He led the Bulldogs in sacks for the third straight year with 4 1/2 and tied for the team lead with 10 1/2 tackles for loss last season. But the Bears believe he might be more productive in the NFL because he won't be moving around as much as he did in college.
"When you watch the tape, they move him all over," Pace said. "He's such a versatile athlete, so he's playing inside linebacker one snap and the next snap he's in nickel running down the field with a slot receiver. And then he's rushing. You see him at all these different positions. I think with him playing more of a pass rush position, he'll have more production."
Floyd, who turns 24 in September, said he was looking forward to working with "some of the best coaches in the league" and that he wanted to pack some more muscle onto a gangly frame that in some ways seems more suited for a receiver. One of the knocks against him is strength.
"I definitely want to add more mass to my body," said Floyd, who opted not to attend the draft in Chicago because of the expense in bringing his family.
One of the knocks against him is his strength. But Pace does not want to sacrifice his speed.
"You see some guys put on too much weight too fast and they look stiff and they lose some of that twitch that makes them a special player," he said. "We've got to do it the right way."
Chicago finished last in the NFC North, and the way they struggled to make plays on defense last season, it was no surprise the Bears addressed that issue in the first round. There's a good chance they will continue to add to their defense over the next two days, although they could use some help on offense as well.
The Bears own seven more picks, including one each in the second and third round on Friday. They also have one in the fourth, one in the fifth, two in the sixth and one in the seventh on Saturday.
Chicago tied for 22nd in sacks and 30th in both forced fumbles and interceptions last season. As gloomy as that sounds, the Bears still looked more like a professional operation. Pace and coach John Fox instilled some stability in a team that was engulfed in chaos during a five-win collapse the previous year under Phil Emery and Marc Trestman.
The Bears addressed weaknesses at inside linebacker by signing Danny Trevathan from Super Bowl champion Denver and former Indianapolis Colts player Jerrell Freeman. They also added to their offensive line by signing former Arizona Cardinals right tackle Bobby Massie, clearing way for Kyle Long to move back to right guard.
But two key players on offense are gone, with the Bears deciding not to offer running back Matt Forte a contract for a ninth season and trading tight end Martellus Bennett to New England. They are relying on Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey to carry the ball and Zach Miller to make up for the loss of Bennett.
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This story has been corrected to show Bears own seven more picks and one in fourth round.