After acquiring Brandon Marshall from the Miami Dolphins, the likelihood is that the Chicago Bears will move forward with their receiving corps of Brandon Marshall, Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett and Dane Sanzenbacher.
However, the Bears do have an opportunity to bring in another of Jay Cutler's favored targets of the past.
The Washington Redskins are currently the favorites to land former Denver Broncos receiver Eddie Royal. While the Redskins will likely pay Royal more money than anyone else, he would likely prefer to play in a better situation after struggling for the most part in Denver since Cutler left.
Over the past few years, a combination of system, injuries and then a quarterback incapable of passing the ball to the routes Royal runs made the receiver redundant in Denver. For that reason, Royal is not a hot property on the market. Most eyes are currently turned towards Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham after a flurry of receivers were signed on the first day of free agency.
At 25 years of age, Royal remains the intelligent receiver who notched 91 receptions for 980 yards in 15 games as a rookie. During that season, which he spent starting across from Marshall catching balls from Cutler, Royal showed great agility, awareness and consistency catching the football.
There is no doubt that he could bring that level of production to Chicago and Jay Cutler has already stated that he would like to see him in a Bears jersey next season. With Jeremy Bates installed as quarterback coach and Cutler, Marshall and Royal reunited, the Bears would have the best pieces of the Broncos offense during the 2008 season.
Of course, it's not that simple to just bring in Royal; you still have to understand what is already on the Bears roster.
While Johnny Knox is expected to return next season, one must question what sort of effectiveness he will have next year after such a gruesome injury. Simply recovering physically isn't enough for a receiver like Knox. He has to fully recover mentally or his effectiveness on the field will be severely hampered.
Outside of the recently acquired Marshall, Knox is the team's best receiver. Unlike Devin Hester, who hasn't completely refined himself as a wide receiver, or Earl Bennett, who lacks the explosiveness of his teammates, Knox had that all-around game which the Bears were looking for. He was a polished receiver capable of big plays before being injured.
Past Knox, Earl Bennett is the team's next-best receiver. Devin Hester may gain more yards from big plays, but Bennett is the consistent performer who will move the chains on a regular basis.
You can rely on Bennett to run the right routes and be at his spot on every play. That is not something you can do with Hester.
Then you get to Dane Sanzenbacher, who had an impressive rookie season as an undrafted prospect.
He may not have had huge production, but he did show an ability to lose coverage and find spots in zones to get open. Sanzenbacher reminds me of Royal, but is nowhere near his level just yet. The Bears don't have time to wait around for him to develop.
Because the Bears defense was old enough already, their window to win a championship is rapidly closing.
If the Bears bring in Royal, who would surely prefer to be in Chicago opposed to Washington, then they would have a receiver who combines the better aspects of their other receivers. Royal is like an improvement over Bennett who doesn't have Hester speed, obviously, but is quick enough to break away from defenders.
Not only would Royal quickly adjust to playing with his old quarterback and receiving partner, he would give the Bears a starter who they could rely on and cement as their starting receiver.