There is plenty of room for improvement on the Bears' roster if they expect to compete at the highest level next season.
GM Phil Emery has brought in Marc Trestman to fix a struggling offense, but he will need to revamp the offensive line, add a pass-catching threat at tight end and find a speedy, possession receiver to complement the big targets of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
Additionally, Emery should already be on the lookout for Brian Urlacher's replacement in the middle of the defense. However, the Bears will need to do much of that legwork in the draft, as they have just more than $13 million of open cap space for the 2013 season (according to John Clayton of espn.com).
Emery would find it nice if he could go on a New York Yankees-esque spending spree, but instead he will need to be very careful with his pocketbook. Finding the most bang for your buck should be the motto for Emery to live by if he wants to fill all of Chicago's needs.
Here are some free agents he should avoid at all costs.
There is no question that the Bears need to find a viable left tackle to protect Jay Cutler, not only for next season, but for many years to come.
However, the fact that they have been unable to do that in the draft the past few seasons has left them in a tough spot. Finding a starting left tackle in free agency is a rarity, but luckily for the Bears, this year sports the best market of prospects at the position.
On the downside, they will be forced to pay top dollar in order to make amends for their mistakes of the past—which will be tough to do with a small amount of cap space remaining. The Bears are in dire need of a fix at left tackle, but they must spend smartly.
So how about former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long? Long has been regarded as one of the best blockades on the left side since entering the league, but the Bears should avoid breaking the bank in attempts to land him.
According to NFL.com, Long is seeking at least $10 million per year, which is a price tag the Bears simply can not currently afford—especially for a player who has finished the past two seasons on injured reserve. Granted, Long is still a four-time Pro Bowl selection, and he will command less money than Ryan Clady, but he is too risky for a team that needs to be smart with their cash this offseason.
Coming into the 2009 NFL draft, Andre Smith was considered to be one of the most highly touted pass-blockers in football.
On the surface he would appear to be the perfect option for a team that desperately needs pass protection. However, despite starting at right tackle for the Bengals the past few seasons, Smith should be avoided as much as a thorn bush.
Smith has been plagued by a foot injury, in addition to weight issues that have followed him since the day he entered the NFL. His play (when healthy) last season was good enough to have CBS Sports' NFL columnist Pete Prisco say Smith "quietly elevated his game to a Pro Bowl level."
With all of those red flags, in addition to Gabe Carimi likely being slotted at right tackle, the Bears should look in another direction.
The Bears need to find an answer at tight end this offseason, whether that comes in free agency or the draft.
There aren't many big names in the free-agent pool, but one name that stands out because of his career accomplishments is Dallas Clark. The 10-year veteran had a decent season in Tampa Bay in 2012, catching 47 passes for 435 yards and four touchdowns.
More importantly, he played in all 16 games for the first time since 2009.
Currently Clark is deciding whether or not he should return for another go in the NFL, according to the Tampa Bay Times. If he was to come back, he would likely return to the Buccaneers, but there would be a chance he would be open to other options.
Clark would be an instant upgrade in the passing game over Kellen Davis—and he'd come at a cheap price—but Chicago should avoid him for better options. The likelihood that Clark can play another 16 games in 2013 is probably against his favor. Furthermore, the depth at the tight end position in the NFL draft is extremely high.
Clark has had a great career and might have one more season left in the tank, but it shouldn't be in a Bears uniform.
For Bears fans, this should really go without saying.
Chicago is in need of a reliable backup to Cutler, but for the sake of the city and Rex Grossman, please don't let it be him. "Sexy Rexy" played in 13 games in 2011, throwing more than 3,000 yards with 16 touchdowns. However, as he has been known for, he had 26 total turnovers.
In reality, Grossman probably doesn't answer calls from any Chicago area codes anymore—and that's probably a good idea. The gunslinger can still whip the ball around, but Bears fans would probably like to see Henry Burris, Chad Hutchinson or Jeff George get another shot before the quarterback that was a big reason Chicago didn't hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February 2007.
Emery wouldn't dare make this move, unless he wants to settle the bet of who returns to the Windy City first: Grossman or Steve Bartman.