For a guy who has made 42 career starts in the NFL at the age of 24, Geno Hayes doesn't exactly profile as someone on the fast track to stardom.
Hayes was a sixth-round draft pick of the Buccaneers in 2008. He played sparingly as a rookie before emerging in 2009 with a 98-tackle, 3-sack, 2-interception season in 2009. But his tackle total dropped to 82 in 2010 and to 64 in 2011, when he lost his starting job in the middle of the season and was part of a very disappointing Tampa Bay defense.
So if the Bears were bringing Hayes in to replace Brian Urlacher, as the Bucs had him do with Derrick Brooks, I would have a problem with it. They're not. Hayes signed a one-year deal with the Bears today with the expectation that he'll provide depth at linebacker and might compete with Nick Roach for the right to start on a unit with Urlacher and Lance Briggs.
It's the second low-risk move this week that could have a moderately sizeable reward for the Bears. Guard Chico Rachal also inked a one-year deal Wednesday. Rachal's career arc is actually pretty similar to Hayes, despite them being opposites positionally. He was drafted in the second round by the 49ers in 2008, worked his way into the lineup fairly quickly and made 38 starts before being benched during the 2011 season.
Picking up other teams' discards isn't exactly the kind of thing that will inspire a fan base, but I think these are nice moves by Bears GM Phil Emery. Hayes and Rachal are both relatively young — certainly young enough to bounce back from their setbacks last season. They're both signed for one-year deals, meaning they'll be motivated and the Bears can very easily discarded if they don't work out. And linebacker and guard are two positions Emery will have to prioritize less when he runs his first NFL Draft a week from now.