Free Agency?..........Let's Start Here First.
Before we get too carried away trying to poach some guys from other teams we need to make certain a few of ours don't get poached from us. I expect we're gonna have some disagreements and debates over these guys but many are core players and some provide talented depth and great STeams play.
So before you take out your red pencil and start crossing names off just remember that some of these guys will need to be replaced if they're not re-signed and many times that much easier to do with a pencil than it is on the field. There are some top notch players and good contributors on this list that other teams would love to have.
So this is one man's opinion let's hear yours.
Chicago Bears 2013 Free Agency: Part 1
By Adam Oestmann, today at 12:39 pm
http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-be...lacher_275.png Will the Bears "bring 'Lach back?" The offseason starts with getting your own house in order. And that is a much taller order when the head coach hasnít watched a full season of game film on the current roster. Marc Trestman and that big, cerebral, analytical football brain of his have some work to do.
The Chicago Bears have 20 players entering free agency this March, 18 of whom are unrestricted, meaning the Bears hold no preexisting rights outside of franchise tag designation, and those players will be able to explore any and all options.
Luckily for Marc Trestman, only a handful of the 18 are starters. But Trestman knows, as evidenced in recent years, the middle-to-bottom of your roster is incredibly important down the stretch as injuries take hold and veterans wear down. And the majority of players up for free agency are middle-of-the-roster guys.
Most notable on the list, of course, is Brian Urlacher. Here they are:
- RB Kahlil Bell
- CB Zack Bowman
- QB Jason Campbell
- CB Kelvin Hayden
- LB Geno Hayes
- DL Israel Idonije
- G Lance Louis
- K Olindo Mare
- QB Josh McCown
- DT Henry Melton
- DB D.J. Moore
- S Troy Nolan
- DT Amobi Okoye
- G Chilo Rachal
- LB Nick Roach
- T Jonathan Scott
- G Chris Spencer
- LB Brian Urlacher
- DT Nate Collins*
- RB Armando Allen**
* Denotes restricted free agent
** Denotes exclusive rights free agent
So, who stays and who goes?
Well, that is the question, and itís never a tougher one then when youíre dealing with a new head coach who will certainly see the pieces of the puzzle come together differently than in past years, and who has no established bias. But what would good would I be to you if I didnít try?
Kahlil Bell, RB
What a roller-coaster year for Bell. After being waived by the Bears in Augustóhe reportedly refused to accept a pay cut to stayóBell worked out for a couple teams, the Patriots among them, but spent some time on the free agent market during the regular season before being resigned by Chicago in mid-September after Matt Forte was injured in Week-2.
In the Bearsí Week-3 matchup, Bell rushed for 20 total yards on 10 carries and added one catch for 11 yards. Just under a month later, he was released for the second time. Bell found another home in November, signing with the Jets but was out of a job again by December.
Bell re-signed with the Bears for the final time last season in mid-December, as Michael Bush was placed on injured reserve, and is now heading into free agency. So, whatís next for the veteran back?
Prediction: My gut tells me the Bears let him walk and also that Bell wants to walk. With Matt Forte and Michael Bush on the current roster, Bell would be better served trying to get picked up by a team where heíd have a better opportunity to compete for a backup role.
Zack Bowman, CB
In 11 games with the Bears in 2012, Bowman proved his worth as a special teams contributor, tallying 11 tackles, two fumble recoveries (one retuned for a TD) and two passes defended. With five corners currently on the roster, and a sixthóIsaiah Freyóon a reserve/future deal, there is a place for Bowman if the Bears want to bring him to camp.
Bowmanís immediate future is predicated on what the Bears intend to do in the external free agent market. While Chicago may boast two Pro Bowl corners in Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, the only solid backup behind those two is Kelvin Hayden. The Bears need to add depth at corner once again.
Iím not sure that Bowman provides the Bears a reliable option at cornerback in 2013, and I expect them to find someone who is. But Bowman does provide value on special teams Ö
Prediction: I think itís possible the Bears bring Bowman back on a single-year deal to compete in camp. While it may sound like Iím pulling a 180 in my explanation of why Bell will go in explaining why Bowman could stay, but the key difference here is I think Bowman would welcome a single-year deal.
Jason Campbell, QB
The Bears donít win football games without Jay Cutler. Jason Campbell was brought here to change that should he be called upon to do so, but it proved a task to tall for the talented veteran QB. But letís get one thing straight: the only reason the Bears were able to own Campbell as their backup in 2012 was because they paid him $3.5M.
But hereís what we know: the demand for Campbell in free agency wasnít really all that high last season. After posting a career-low 72.8 passer rating in 2012, Iím not sure the demand will be all that high in 2013 either. In addition, Campbell trained under new head coach Marc Trestman prior to being drafted in 2005.
There are still a number of teams in need of a starting QB in 2013, but following the year of the rookie QB in the NFL, Iím not sure anyone wants a 31 year-old Campbell to be that guy. So, if a team is going to sign him as a backup, why not Marc Trestman and the Bears?
Prediction: This one is tricky-ish because of what I know about Josh McCown (will get to that in a bit) but I think chances are good that Campbell resigns as the teamís backup in 2013.
Kelvin Hayden, CB
After Tillman and Jennings, no corner on the Bearsí roster took more defensive snaps than Hayden in 2012 (460). He is the teamís swing corner, so to speak, and he rotated in at some point in all 16 regular season games. Hayden played well. He tied for first in the NFL with a career-high four opponent fumble recoveries and tallied 26 tackles and five passes defended.
Prediction: The Bears will try and retain him.
Geno Hayes, LB
Hayes was a guy current GM Phil Emery wanted last offseason, and a guy he made it a point to bring in for depth. He was the teamís fourth linebacker in 2012 and is a good special teams contributor. Looking at Hayes statistics, and given the fact that he was a starter in this League prior to coming to Chicago, he had a solid yearómaybe one of his best.
Prediction: The Bears should, and likely will, try to retain him.
Israel Idonije, DL
The only player to see more time on the field along the Bearsí defensive line in 2012 was Julius Peppers. Idonije finished second on the team in sacks with 7.5 and is a career Bear. The team was in the same position as they are now with Idonije in 2012, and they chose to retain him for $2.5M. They got their moneyís worth.
The question for me is not whether or not Idonije still has value; I believe he does. For the Bears, it comes down to having someone to replace him; Iím not sure they do. Idonije is a versatile player who can contribute well at the tackle and end positions. But it is possible that the Bears look to upgrade the position as a whole in free agency, and if thatís the case, Idonijeís salary number may not make sense.
Prediction: I never write off proven contributors simply because of age, and I definitely never do it when theyíve spent nine solid seasons in the system Iím probably going to continue to run in 2013 when I donít have an immediate replacement. It simply doesnít make sense. Iím not saying it is 100% that Idonije sticks, but Iíd lean in that direction and say he and the Bears would like one more season.
Lance Louis, G
Hereís the thing with Louis: The recovery timeline from his torn ACL tear is something like eight to 10 months. That puts his return to participation somewhere around the end of training camp, if heís lucky. While Louis was arguably the teamís best offensive lineman in 2012 while healthy, he may not have time to work with his colleagues prior to the 2013 season. Thatís something o-line coaches put a premium on.
But the reality is that the Bears canít afford to let him walk. Theyíd be foolish to do so considering what they probably would have paid him had he not gotten injured. They can now sign their best offensive lineman to an extension at a reduced rate. In addition, the Bears arenít looking to lose any talent along a line they desperately needed to begin fixing yesterday.
Prediction: He will be re-signed.
Olindo Mare, K
Mare served as a decent stand-in for Robbie Gould, sending six of eight attempts through the uprights. But a stand-in is all he was.
Prediction: He hits the streets and plays golf while waiting for a younger kicker to pull a testicle or something during the regular season.
Josh McCown, QB
Here was that little nugget I alluded to about McCown while discussing Campbellís future: Jay Cutler wants him and has a really great relationship with him. Itís not because of his ability as a passer, but his ability as a coach. Will it be enough to keep him in Chicago?
Prediction: No, I donít think so. Having made my prediction that Campbell will stay, itís a natural move to expect that McCown walks, but, hey, donít be surprised if he shows up on some kind of coaching fellowship/internship at some point. Also keep in mind that the Bears may indeed sign McCown to carry into to camp, but theyíre not likely to carry three QBs on the active 53-man.
Henry Melton, DT
The Bears want(ed) Melton back. They were negotiating an extension with him during the regular season. And while that was with Lovie Smith at the helm, Phil Emery knew full well Smith may not return, and he was still open to discussing a deal. Likewise, Melton wants to return to Chicago.
Great, right? Yeah, probably. But just because thereís mutual interest doesnít mean both sides will agree on what the appropriate contract figures are (total value, guaranteed dollars and number of years). Melton wants to be paid like one of the best DTs in the League, and he played like it at the start of the regular season, making it to his first Pro Bowl.
Mel Tucker, the teamís new d-coordinator, will also want Melton to return. The Bears are not in bad shape salary cap-wise, but they will have to make smart decisions to try and fill as many needs as possible, but Iím trusting both sides will find the happy medium.
Prediction: It is very, very possible that Melton may secretly want to seriously explore options elsewhere with the dismissal of Lovie Smith. Itís also very possible that he finds another team who wants to overpay him, while the Bears wonít. Chicago will have the franchise tag to fall back on in that situation, so my guess is that one way or another he stays.
D.J. Moore, DB
Moore lost his starting spot at nickel during the regular season to Kelvin Hayden. Reports at the time suggested he was, ďin Lovieís doghouse.Ē Whatever the hell that means. Moore missed some key plays in 2012 (I seen Ďem wit my own two eyes, kids), and he wasnít a standout special teams performer either. His unique skills and positional fit, combined with his slumping performance, make him one of the more difficult players to predict.
Prediction: My gut tells me the Bears allow Moore to seek employment elsewhere, but really, a feeling is all it is.
Troy Nolan, S
The Bears signed Nolan as a stand-in when multiple injuries at the safety position left them incredibly thin toward the end of the regular season. Nolan didnít take a single snap on defense, and is not likely to hang around.
Prediction: Heíll hit the streets.
Amobi Okoye, DT
Okoye notched one sack in nine games played with the Bears in 2012 and was really brought back to serve as an injury stand-in. He could have depth value, but something tells me the Bears will want to have a look at some new talent in that regard.
Prediction: Okoye does not return.
Chilo Rachal, G
What a tough string of seasons for Rachal. His off-field history and personal issues have led to a player with a ton of potential struggling to find his place on the field. Rachal had a really bad game for the Bears in 2012 when he went up against his former team in the San Francisco 49ers. According to reports, 49ersí players knew just how to get in Rachalís head and found a way to do it in the 32-7 victory over Chicago.
When it was discovered that the Bears intended to replace Rachal with Chris Spencer the following week, Rachal left the team for ďpersonal reasons.Ē Those ďreasonsĒ were believed to be his inability to cope with being benched. None of it bodes well for his future in Chicago, despite the offensive line woes.
Prediction: Rachal will not return.
Nick Roach, LB
Roach is a starter for this team, and I believe heís earned it. Given the uncertainness with Brian Urlacheróboth his contract situation and his durabilityókeeping Roach on the roster is of high importance. He wonít command a huge deal in free agency, although he should get a significant pay increase.
Prediction: No brainer. Bears will look to retain him, and I believe he wants to be retained.
Jonathan Scott, T
Scott saw somewhat significant playing time in 2012, but it was more do to the slumping of other players on the roster and injury shuffling. He struggled in both pass protection and run blocking, and Iím not sure that he did anything to convince the Bearsí brass that heís worth another shot as opposed to finding another competition-caliber player.
Prediction: Scott is likely on the way out.
Chris Spencer, G
Personally, I thought Spencer had a decent 2011 for the Bears. 2012 was a different story. Itís hard to go through this list and start axing offensive lineman left and right when the Bears need all the help they can get, but at 30 years-old, coming off a below average season, Iím not sure Spencer is one of the guys who sticks. Having said that, you canít get rid of guys you donít have replacements for.
Prediction: Spencer could stick on a minimum one-year deal in an effort to provide veteran depth.
Brian Urlacher, LB
Crap. Do I have to? Okay Ö
In all seriousness, I think this decision is easier than many may believe. Brian Urlacher, despite the stupid things he says from time to time, is the face of the franchise, and heíll be willing to return on a hometown discount. I believe that will still be the case, even with Lovie Smith now gone.
This is one area I believe the McCaskey family could have a hand in. Iím not the guy who goes around suggesting that the McCaskeyís are pulling the strings up at Halas Hallóbecause theyíre notóbut that doesnít mean they wonít ask Emery to consider their position when working on this issue.
Given Urlacherís lack of durability in 2012, I donít believe heís a candidate to be overpaid by another team this offseason. In fact, I think heíll have to take a serious pay cut in order to keep playing altogether. Given those things, and also considering what the locker roomóespecially on defenseówill be feeling post-Lovie, I think it does make sense to bring ĎLach back.
Prediction: While this one is as complicated as it gets and can go either way, Iím guessing the 34 year-old LB returns to Chicago for a final season in 2013.
Nate Collins*, DT
Prediction: It makes sense, in my mind, to tender Collins a qualifying offer, keep him around and continue to develop the young talent.
Armando Allen**, RB
Prediction: Bears hold all rights to Allen should they offer him the three-year veteran minimum, which I believe they will do. He sticks.
In part-2 of this series, we'll look at the external free agent market and determine who the Bears might target.