Bears Gamble on 2011 FA Bargains.............
Bears gamble on motivated free agents
WR Williams could be a real value buy
http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...8/63809762.jpg Roy Williams catches a pass from Jay Cutler during a training camp practice. (Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images / August 6, 2011)
http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...7-07185739.jpg Photos: Bears training camp in Bourbonnais
http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...2-28193220.jpg Tweets from the Bears beat: Biggs, McClure, Pompei and Haugh http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...0-07195015.jpg Story: Sunday's practice update: Urlacher picks off Cutler http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...9-07202045.jpg Story: Bears' Hurd on Cutler: He's great
http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...0-07201031.jpg Story: Tice sets Bears' starting five O-line, unless they 'falter'
By Brad Biggs, Tribune reporter 10:02 p.m. CDT, August 7, 2011
BOURBONNAIS — With the biggest splash in free agency in franchise history, the Bears last year secured Julius Peppers with a contract that paid him $20 million for 2010.
In a more wide-ranging approach this summer, the Bears have signed 10 veterans who will cost the team a little more than $23.5 million this season provided they all make the club. The group includes four projected starters, a punter, some rotational players for the defensive line, special teams help and a complementary running back to Matt Forte.
What signals the Bears were bargain shopping? Punter Adam Podlesh's $10 million, five-year contract was the largest. He receives $4.5 million this season, according to figures obtained by the Tribune.
Expectations in the NFL are shaped by two things: draft status and contract size. So what else stands out from the Bears' shopping spree? The club might be counting on Matt Spaeth to start at tight end based on the $7 million, three-year contract he received, $3 million of which is earned this season.
For all the chatter about the team pursuing Lofa Tatupu, coach Lovie Smith has been straightforward in saying Nick Roach is the starter at strong-side linebacker. His payday affirms that. Roach received a $4.5 million, two-year contract and banks $2.685 million in 2011. Running back Marion Barber receives $2.5 million this season in a two-year contract with a base value of $4.5 million.
If wide receiver Roy Williams produces like offensive coordinator Mike Martz has predicted, the Bears will have one of the value buys of free agency. He went from signing a $45 million, five-year extension with $20 million guaranteed when he was traded from the Lions to the Cowboys to coming here on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. That's $9 million less than he made in Dallas last season, and it's why general manager Jerry Angelo said he likes players that bet on themselves.
"You take the one-year deal and see what happens," Williams said. "Hopefully, it plays out the way you planned. I've made enough money to where I am OK. It's about finding the right fit and getting some respect in this league again.
"People are on my back all day, every day. I think that is just because I played for America's Team and everybody saw what was going on every Sunday. But people don't know the inside stuff that was happening, and I'll never say. I notice I am 50/50 with the fans here. Some fans are believers, some are not."
Amobi Okoye looks like he could quickly find a niche at defensive tackle. He's on a prove-it deal too worth $1,382,500. Vernon Gholston is getting a look as a situational pass rusher with a $1 million contract. New center Chris Spencer gets a little more than half of his $6 million, two-year contract in year one. Sam Hurd projects to be a standout special teams player with a role on offense too, and his base deal is $4.15 million over three seasons with $1 million in escalators. He earns $2.035 million this season. Linebacker Brian Iwuh is back for one year at $710,000.
None of these players projects to make the same impact Peppers did last season. But they're role players with mostly affordable contracts. Seven of them are one- or two-year deals, meaning the new Bears should be motivated to perform.
Angelo's wager is in.
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