Grading the Strength of Each Position on Bears' Roster Heading into Free Agency
As the NFL approaches free agency, each team most look at their own roster and assess any holes before coming up with a game plan on how to attack the open market.
Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the current roster, which will have give you an idea of the team's strengths and weaknesses as we get set to head into free agency.
Grades are given out based upon need. An "A" means that no free agent signing is needed at the position, a grade of "B" suggests that the team could bring in a bargain free agent, and so on and so forth going. A grade of "F" means that an impact starter is needed.
Jay Cutler is under contract for one more season with the Bears. The two sides will look to hammer out a long term deal, but in the meantime, they have the franchise tag to use if needed.
What they don't have is a backup at the position.
When you look at Jason Campbell's stats in six games last year, they were not terrible. However, when you saw him on the field, you realized that he struggled and was not an adequate backup.
Campbell will most likely not be back next season. Should the Bears choose to look at another free agent, Matt Moore from the Dolphins would be a nice fit. He is a mobile, timing quarterback who can get hot coming off the bench, if needed.
The Bears might have some competition going after Moore, as the crop of quarterbacks in this year's free agent pool is weak. And if they can't get him at a bargain price, then look for the team to move on.
Running Back: A
The Bears went out last season and spent of ton of money at the running back position. Even after having sub-par seasons, Matt Forte and Michael Bush are still a good combo with elite capability.
There is absolutely no reason for the Bears to go out and spend money on a position that is considered a strength going into next year. At the most, they might look to bringing Kahlil Bell back.
The front office should decide to invest money elsewhere in order to help Forte and Bush get back to elite level status.
Wide Receiver: C
Brandon Marshall came in last season and set all kinds of single-season records for the Bears. Yet Alshon Jeffery had an up-and-down rookie year, and Earl Bennett and Devin Hester were less than mediocre.
The Bears need another receiver to work underneath, which would allow Marshall and Jeffery to go after the bigger play. Bennett and Hester are just not viable options in the No. 3 spot. They are both No. 4 options, at best.
If the Bears really want to play with the big boys, then they need to upgrade their aerial attack. The better offenses have at least three solid options at the receiver position.
Bringing in a guy like Wes Welker would make a world of difference as the Bears move towards becoming a more offensive-minded team under new head coach Marc Trestman.
If the price for Welker gets too big, though, then Danny Amendola, Brian Hartline and Brandon Stokley are all backup options on the free agent market.
Tight End: F
Last year, Kellen Davis averaged only 14.3 receiving yards per game, and he finished with just 19 catches in 16 games.
Davis was a complete disaster, and Matt Spaeth and Kyle Adams were not good enough receivers to step in and fill the void. The Bears need a serious upgrade at the position.
Too much pressure cannot be placed on Evan Rodriguez, who will be looking to renew himself after being forced to block for most of the season under Mike Tice.
A nice, big target like Brandon Myers will fit nicely with the Bears and will allow Rodriguez to be more of an underneath No. 2 option.
Offensive Tackle: F
It's time to cut ties with J'Marcus Webb. There is not an impending move on the roster that is more cut-and-dry. There also isn't a position on the roster that is in more dire need of an upgrade.
Left tackle is not the only issue, though. When you look at the other side of the line, the Bears don't really have an answer there either. Gabe Carimi might be salvageable, but only time will tell.
Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer and Coach Trestman will have their hands full getting Carimi back on track. In the meantime, Phil Emery has to go out and find a quality left tackle. In a strong free agent class, guys like Branden Albert, Sam Baker and Jermon Bushrod are good fits.
Offensive Guard: D
The revolving door at guard last year was living proof the Bears need help at the position. Lance Louis was the only consistent guy on the line until he went down with an injury, and anybody else that slid into the left and right guard spots were below-average.
Earlier, we said that running back is one of the strongest positions on the roster, and protecting Matt Forte and Michael Bush are just as important as protecting Jay Cutler. A large reason why the two backs struggled last year was because of the interior line.
Should the Bears choose to make a big splash in free agency, then they can look towards Buffalo's Andy Levitre to lock up the left side while bringing back Louis at a discounted price.
If they don't want to spend big money on Levitre, then Kevin Boothe, Brandon Moore or Matt Slauson are fallback options.
Here's a curious question: Is Roberto Garza really this bad or was his poor play a result of Mike Tice's offense? It's most likely a combination of both factors, but don't let Garza off the hook.
The problem with Garza is his slow movement, lack of awareness and inability to lead on the front line. When you factor in all those issues, it's obvious that the Bears could use an upgrade.
It will be tough to go out and spend money on the tackle and guard positions and then go out and address the center spot. Should the Bears look for a player on the cheap, then they can possibly take a gander at Brad Meester, who has some miles on him but could have something left in the tank.
Defensive End: B
When you have Julius Peppers making $12.9 million next year while carrying a cap number of $16.3 million and you also have a recent first-round pick invested into defensive end Shea McClellin, then you don't need to go out and seriously upgrade the position.
Corey Wootton finally busted out with a nice season last year as well, and this will allow the team to part ways with Isreal Idonije. They will most likely bring in another guy at this spot, but he will be a purely rotational player at a very cheap price.
Defensive Tackle: C
This grade is based upon the Bears bringing back Henry Melton, who is scheduled to become a free agent. The team certainly has some talent at the position with Melton, but they could add a bit more.
The team can ill afford to lose Melton, so signing him is imperative.
The team took a gamble on Brian Price last year and it didn't pan out. Amobi Okoye wasn't that good and they are still waiting for more consistency from Stephen Paea. Nate Collins showed promise as a rotational player but nothing more.
It would be tough to give up on Paea, but if they do, then they can look for a big body to play alongside Melton in the free agent market.
Like the previous slide, this grade is contingent upon the Bears bringing back Brian Urlacher. Honestly, though, where else would he go? Urlacher is an older linebacker who can't really fit into other defenses at this point,so going back to the Bears is a no-brainer.
It makes sense for the Bears because you can still get two years out of him while also ensuring that one of your franchise's all-time great players retires as a Bear, much like Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary did.
When you have Urlacher and Lance Briggs, you still have a linebacking core that is better than most others in the league. Still, the team must decide whether they should re-sign Nick Roach or bring in another guy.
With a new defensive coordinator, Briggs and Urlacher will go a long way towards maintaining continuity. Briggs still plays at an All-Pro level, and if Urlacher is healthy, he still provides a lot of value as well.
It's rare for a team to have one shutdown corner, yet the Bears have two. Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are certainly in the running for the top cornerback tandem in the NFL. What keeps the team from getting an A-grade at this position is the lack of a nickel guy.
Last season, the team had some problems with D.J. Moore and Kelvin Hayden, and, most likely, those two will not be back with the team. Sadly, there are not too many options on the market and the Bears would have to dig deep for an upgrade.
One intriguing name is Colts' defensive back Darius Butler. Last season, Butler had four interceptions including two pick-sixes in just 11 games with Indy.
It was shocking to see Major Wright play a full 16 games last year. The third-round pick out of Florida in 2010 has been injury prone, but was finally able to showcase some durability in 2012. Chris Conte played and started in 15 games alongside him.
The Bears look like they have two players that they can finally rely on in the back end of the defense. Rookie Brandon Hardin will be back from an injury to help in the rotation as well. When you factor in Craig Steltz and Anthony Walters, the team is in good shape here.
Robbie Gould is returning from injury and is under contract for another season. There is no reason to look for outside help with one of the most accurate kickers in league history already on your roster.
The Bears have three years left with Adam Podlesh. They might look to release him for a cheaper option, but considering that Joe DeCamillis is the new special teams coach, that is unlikely.
DeCamillis coached Podlesh during his tenure in Jacksonville and the two have a very good working relationship. Podlesh struggled last year but came on strong in the end. Look for him to be reinvigorated under DeCamillis.