The Bears are on the record saying they believe in linebacker Shea McClellin, but their 2012 first-round pick met with the New York Jets on Friday, a source said.
McClellin, an unrestricted free agent, remains in the Bears’ picture, but other teams clearly are interested in him, which will help determine his next contract. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is considered McClellin’s strongest supporter at Halas Hall.
“We like Shea,” general manager Ryan Pace said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We feel like his arrow is still pointing up, especially at the inside linebacker position. I thought our defensive coaches did a great job with him. It’s a decision we’re going to have to make.”
The Bears are looking for an inside linebacker to pair with Danny Trevathan, their prized free-agent addition who just signed a four-year, $24.5 million contract.
Sources said that linebacker Jerrell Freeman, a four-year starter for the Colts, was scheduled to visit the Bears on Friday.
After being written off as a bust after three so-so seasons, McClellin excelled under Fangio in 2015. He was tabbed as the defense’s signal-caller during training camp and started the first five games before spraining his knee and missing three weeks.
McClellin’s production fluctuated after he returned from his injury, but Fangio’s faith in him never did. McClellin finished with 96 tackles last season, the third-most on the team, according to coach reviews. He also had two tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
McClellin felt at home at inside linebacker in Fangio’s defense. He had his struggles, but the Bears always took into account that McClellin spent his first two years in the NFL as an undersized defensive end and his third as a strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 defense.
“It’s all keying and diagnosing and reaction and instincts and repetition,” Fangio said in December. “The more he plays the more I think he’ll do better at that.”
In other news, the Jets have reportedly reached a three-year deal with defensive end Jarvis Jenkins. After signing a one-year deal last year with the Bears, Jenkins started every game, making 32 tackles and four sacks.
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