2012 NFL Free Agency: Predicting Who From the Bears Will Stay and Who Will Go

Adam LufranoCorrespondent IIIFebruary 10, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 20:  Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears runs against the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field on November 20, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Chargers 31-20.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears have 14 players scheduled to hit free agency this offseason. They also have plenty of room in their salary cap to go out and sign free agents from other teams, but they will most likely want to take care of their own first.

The big names for Chicago this year are Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte, Israel Idonije and Tim Jennings. However, this article will analyze and predict what happens with all 14 of the Bears free agents this year, not just the big name players.

Also, predictions aren’t necessarily what they should or shouldn’t do. They are my best guess as to what happens with each player.

Caleb Hanie, QB

Hanie unexpectedly started four games for the Bears in 2011. He had to come in as the back up because of an injury to Jay Cutler. Many fans were optimistic that Hanie could do a serviceable job as the Bears’ starter.

Unfortunately for Chicago, that’s not what happened.

Bears fans should not expect the Bears to re-sign Hanie because he proved last year that he should never start for an NFL team at any time. Maybe it was Mike Martz’s schemes that doomed the young kid, but he’s been in the system for two years so that’s not a valid excuse.

Prediction: Bears let him walk.

Josh McCown, QB

McCown started the last two games in 2011 for Chicago and he looked solid. That may have been due to the fact that anybody could have looked good following Caleb Hanie’s performance, but he nonetheless was a good third option.

If I were the Bears, I would try to bring McCown back. He’s been on the roster for almost a year (he got signed during the 2011 season) and he played well in two emergency starts. I think he would be a great third quarterback on any depth chart, and after the disaster the Bears experienced last season, they most likely want to carry three viable quarterbacks next year.

However, when looking at what might happen this offseason, I think things will go down differently. I think the Bears will go out and get a back up quarterback in free agency or the draft. Also, Chicago has told the media many times that they like Nathan Enderle as a young quarterback. With Jay Cutler, Nathan Enderle and a pick up this off season to be the true back-up quarterback, I don’t see McCown making the final roster.

Prediction: Bears bring McCown to training camp but cut him before the season starts.

Matt Forte, RB

Matt Forte is one of the better running backs in the league and he definitely deserves to be paid like one. However, it’s not looking likely that he will sign a long term deal right now. The Bears are trying to negotiate one, but the fact that they can franchise him two years in a row is obviously not pushing the Bears’ front office to get this deal done.

There is a possibility that Forte could hold out if he is not signed long term, and if that happens, then a lot of things could be different in a couple of months. For right now, though, it looks like Forte will be franchised whether he wants it or not.

Prediction: Bears franchise him.

Roy Williams, WR

This prediction is easier. Roy Williams did not produce last season and the Bears are most likely not going to want to keep him around. Chicago is going to want to draft receivers this April and also spend some money in free agency at the position. Re-signing Roy Williams after a poor season is not the best strategy for the Bears that want to make major upgrades at wide receiver.

Prediction: Bears let him walk.

Kellen Davis, TE

Kellen Davis isn’t the best tight end in the NFL, but he did most everything the Bears wanted him to do last season. He helped out the offensive line with blocking and he is a big and athletic player that can be used in the red zone.

The Bears might want to look at possibly bringing in a tight end this offseason to help them out in the passing game now that Mike Martz is gone. Even if that happens, though, they should most likely still sign Davis because he’s been with the team and he’d still be useful.

Prediction: Bears re-sign him to a multi-year contract.

Israel Idonije, DE

Defensive end is a position the Bears want to upgrade this offseason. Also, on a more overall level, the Bears wouldn’t mind trying to get younger on defense.

So is bringing back the 31-year-old defensive end you want to upgrade a good idea?


The Bears should be looking to draft a defensive end high in the draft this offseason or sign a Cliff Avril or Calais Campbell in free agency. If they do one of those two things, the Bears still could use Idonije on their defense as a quality back up or a guy to rotate in and get some snaps. He’s not a bad player by any stretch, so re-signing him, no matter how much you want to upgrade the defensive end position, is probably a good idea.

Prediction: Bears re-sign him to a two year contract.

Amobi Okoye, DT

Okoye was a good defensive tackle for the Bears last season and they should be looking to bring him back for 2012. He is only 24 years old and had four sacks last season. He is not an elite player at the position, but letting him go in free agency is not a good move because he provides very good depth.

Prediction: Bears sign him to a multi-year contract.

Zach Bowman, CB

Zach Bowman is not the kind of player a team wants as their third cornerback. Both he and Tim Jennings are free agents this offseason and most likely the Bears will sign one of them to a multi-year contract. I think Jennings is the better player, so if I were the Bears, I would sign Jennings.

Jennings did have an inconsistent season in 2011, but he is a better option as a third cornerback than Bowman is. The Bears should try and get a player this offseason through the draft or free agency that can start opposite Charles Tillman, and then Jennings can be the solid third corner that he should be.

Prediction: Bears let him walk.

Tim Jennings, CB

This just goes along with what I said about Bowman. The Bears will likely pick one of these two players to sign, and they should go with Jennings. Jennings isn't the best option as one of the starters, but if the Bears can bring someone else in to take that role then it should be fine.

Prediction: Bears sign him to a multi-year contract.

Kahlil Bell, RB

Bell is a restricted free agent this offseason, but it shouldn't make much of a difference because the Bears should be looking to re-sign him. Bell had a great game last year against the Green Bay Packers that almost alone warrants him a new contract from the Bears.

The Bears may or may not part ways with Marion Barber this offseason, but nonetheless Bell is a good running back to have on the roster. The Bears might as well keep him around to see what he can do. If he continues to play well going into 2012, then the Bears will be in great shape. If he plays poorly, then the Bears won't have any problems. They'd still have Matt Forte and maybe Barber in the backfield and they would have no worries about their ground game.

Prediction: Bears sign him to a two year contract.

Corey Graham, CB

Corey Graham made the Pro Bowl last season as a special teams player. The Bears pride themselves on special teams so it is no wonder that one of their players made it for that reason. Graham is a great contributor on special teams and would be valuable to the Bears next season on that alone.

Also, Graham is also not a terrible corner. He does not make fans cringe when he is on defense like Packers' special teams star Jarrett Bush does. The Packers should be looking to sign Bush this year because of his special teams contributions, so the Bears should also be doing to same to Graham. 

Since Graham can also play cornerback when needed, his re-signing is a no brainer for Chicago.

Prediction: Bears sign him to a two year contract.

Craig Steltz, S

Steltz had a fine year last season in the Bears' defensive backfield when he got a chance to start. Steltz is a great player to be a back up, but he's not the worst guy to plug into the starting role either. He was on a pace last year to post 100 tackles if he had played the entire season. Obviously that doesn't necessarily mean he's a great safety because Charlie Peprah had 94 tackles last season in 15 games for the Packers, and Peprah sucks. However, Steltz still played a solid safety for the Bears and should be brought back.

Prediction: Bears sign him to a two year contract.

Chris Massey, LS

I mean, Massey is the Bears' long snapper. Might as well hold on to him because when you can't really have a better long snapper than another team, right? Unless Massey fumbled every snap then he's in no trouble. Since he didn't do that, he's good to go.

Prediction: Bears sign him to a one year contract.

Brandon Meriweather, S

Meriweather wasn't a bad pick up by Chicago because he could have come in and found his old Pro Bowl ways and then the Bears defense would be vastly improved. Unfortunately for them, he turned out to be a bust and he couldn't play at a high level in 2011.

The Bears tried it and it just didn't work like they hoped it would. They most likely will let him walk this offseason and try to improve their safety position in the draft this year. 

Prediction: Bears let him walk.


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