CHICAGO — The Chicago Bears agreed Tuesday to a one-year contract with former San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald despite his having some brushes with the law.
Bringing in McDonald, who played under new Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in San Francisco, could be controversial in Chicago given his legal troubles.
The 49ers cut McDonald in December after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her following a night of drinking in which she injured her head in a fall by his swimming pool.
“Those things we've looked into,” general manager Ryan Pace said at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. “I can tell you this, we know those are ongoing. But we wouldn't be where we're at right now if we didn't feel comfortable with where that's at. So it's been thorough.”
The Bears also announced Tuesday a one-year deal with defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, who spent the past four seasons with the Washington Redskins.
As for McDonald, the woman who accused him of sexual assault told authorities she has no memory of the encounter at his San Jose house. The Santa Clara County district attorney is considering whether to file criminal charges.
McDonald filed a defamation lawsuit last week, saying security camera footage will show a consensual sexual encounter occurred in his hot tub.
In November, the Santa Clara County district attorney's office announced it had declined to file charges against the defensive lineman in a separate domestic violence investigation.
The acquisition of McDonald is an eye-opening move for Chicago considering Pace has talked about building around high-character players since he was hired in January. He traded outspoken receiver Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets, parting with a player who no longer seemed to fit in the locker room with a new regime taking over.
McDonald's signing raises questions about the value the organization places on character. But Pace insisted it was not a decision made lightly. It got approval from chairman George McCaskey after McDonald paid his way to Chicago and met with him for two hours.
Bears matriarch Virginia McCaskey also approved.
Pace also relied on feedback from Fangio and new defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, who came from the 49ers.
“We looked at it on a case-by-case basis,” Pace said. “It's a one-year, prove-it deal. And everything we do in our business, every decision I make, there's risk involved. I understand that. I think then it's just on me to be thorough through this whole process, and I feel good about where we're at. I think the intimate knowledge that Vic and Ed had helped a lot, helped me feel good about this right now.”
McDonald had 19 1/2 sacks, 29 tackles for losses, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in eight seasons with the 49ers. He made 14 starts last year and was credited with 39 tackles and three sacks.
Jenkins has 76 tackles in his career, including a career-high 29 last year. He sat out the 2011 season because of a knee injury after being drafted in the second round that spring.