The Chicago Bears have agreed to a one-year deal with veteran defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, according to reports:

The 32-year-old Ratliff was a seventh-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys out of Auburn, and was a starter for the Cowboys from 2007-2012. He has not played a game in 2013, due to sports hernia surgery and a hamstring injury, and was released by the Cowboys two weeks ago due to a failed physical (or so that's what they're saying... it's been a messy situation this year between the two sides).

There's also a pending off-the-field, legal matter involving Ratliff, as noted by ESPN's Ed Werder:

Ratliff also faces charges of driving while intoxicated stemming from an arrest earlier this year, six weeks after then-Cowboys backup Josh Brent's crash, which killed teammate Jerry Brown Jr. Ratliff's trial has been postponed until February.
Ratliff, if healthy in the next few weeks, could provide a desperately needed boost to the Bears' defense. The 6'4", 303-pounder is a four-time Pro Bowl selection (2008-2011), and was named to the All-Pro team in 2009.

In 2012, Ratliff was Pro Football Focus' No. 46 graded defensive tackle, and graded 17th in pass rush among defensive tackles. He graded as PFF's No. 7 overall defensive tackle in 2011, and graded as a top-20 defensive tackle by PFF every season from 2010-2012.

The Bears' defense -- and particularly defensive line -- has been a mess, currently grading as PFF's second-worst overall unit in the NFL in 2013. It doesn't help things for the defensive line that defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins have been lost for the season due to injuries.

So, if Ratliff can be ready to go relatively soon and play like the guy he's capable of, that could really help things for the Bears on the defensive line. Ratliff will likely slide into the starting three-technique spot, with Stephen Paea playing nose tackle, and Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton at defensive ends. This also would move struggling (to say the least) second-year defensive end Shea McClellin out of three-down duties and let him stick to defensive end on passing downs.

With Ratliff, quarterback Jay Cutler (torn groin), and linebacker Lance Briggs (fractured shoulder) all likely to return to action in the next month (ish), there's at least some reason for optimism for the Bears and their fans now after incredibly frustrating recent weeks. Hopefully the Bears can hang in the playoff race until those players return, and perhaps can make a nice run to finish out the year.

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