The 5 Moves the Bears Must Avoid in Free Agency
Since the season ended, every Bears fan and analyst has spent time figuring out ways the team can take the next step, next season. However, there are also several players the Bears should just take a pass on.
A big part of Phil Emery's key to success in replacing Jerry Angelo is avoiding the free-agency mistakes his predecessor made. The Bears don't necessarily have the salary cap space for a big hit like Julius Peppers, but they have to avoid mistakes like Chester Taylor, Orlando Pace and Brandon Manumaleuna.
Much has been made of the Bears' need for offensive line help, and it certainly is a concern. I have also speculated on what they might or might not do to help in that area. If they are going to address the need in free agency, they have to make sure they're getting a player who will help them.
The Bears are in a position where they don't have much room for error. While some think doing something is better than doing nothing, they have to avoid making a big mistake. If they spend a lot of money on a player who doesn't play well, it could very well end up being the difference between making and missing the playoffs next season and hurt their cap space in future seasons.
One of the most difficult parts of being a general manager is deciding which players fit their scheme and locker room. If the Bears are going to spend money this offseason, they have to make sure they do so wisely.
Here are five moves that would be big mistakes for the Bears.
Letting Henry Melton Leave
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Henry Melton stands as one of the best draft picks Jerry Angelo made, and it would be a big mistake for Phil Emery to let him leave as a free agent.
In just two seasons as a starting defensive tackle, Melton has picked up 13 sacks. This past season, he was the seventh-highest rated defensive tackle on Pro Football Focus. Had he not missed two games—including one against the hapless Arizona Cardinals' offensive line—he could've finished in the Top Five.
Melton is young and is just scratching the surface for how good he can be. He's also a prime example of hard work paying off. He came into the league as a defensive end, but put on around 30 pounds as he's moved to defensive tackle.
New defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has stated the team will stick with the Cover 2 defense, and getting pressure on the quarterback is the biggest key to the scheme.
Whether it be with the franchise tag or a long-term deal, the Bears need to make sure they keep Melton in the fold.
Letting Israel Idonije Leave
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While a lot of attention has been given to Henry Melton, Israel Idonije was actually the Bears' highest-rated defensive lineman on Pro Football Focus last season.
With his size and athleticism, Idonije provides the Bears with versatility. He graded out as the 12th-best 4-3 defensive end in the league on PFF with a grade of 14.4, despite playing just 514 snaps there. He also played 212 snaps inside, where he received a 3.4.
While he took advantage of extra attention to Peppers, Idonije averaged a hurry every 12.6 snaps, the best rate on the team. He was also their best run defender by far, according to PFF.
The team has younger players in Corey Wootton and Shea McLellin coming up, but neither possesses the versatility that Idonije provides the team.
With a new coaching staff in place, the Bears also need to keep some continuity in place. Idonije has been with the team since 2004 and should receive at least one more short-term contract.
The Bears have already expressed interest in bringing him back, now the sides must come to terms.
Paying Greg Jennings $14 Million Annually
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Greg Jennings might be the best receiver on the free-agent market, and if the Bears were to pursue him, I wouldn't argue. However, they shouldn't make him one of the highest-paid receivers in the league.
It's been rumored (per Tom Pelissero of ESPN) that Jennings wants to become the third-highest paid receiver in the league. While I don't doubt he has value, that is extreme.
Jennings will turn 30 early next season and has missed 11 games over the past two seasons. He averaged just 10.2 yards per catch last season and scored only four touchdowns.
There also has to be some question about whether Jennings is a product of the system. When current Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was the offensive coordinator in New Orleans, Joe Horn averaged 87 catches per season but never topped 50 without McCarthy.
Jennings could help the Bears, but he certainly isn't worth that price tag.
Signing Jake Long
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The former Miami Dolphin was once among the elite left tackles in the NFL, but injuries have hit him the last two seasons, and there is now a question of what any team that signs him would be getting.
After struggling for much of the 2012-13 season, Long was placed on injured reserve with a torn triceps. This came after he ended the 2011-12 season on IR with a torn biceps.
This past season, Long was rated the 46th-best offensive tackle on Pro Football Focus, just one spot higher than current Bears' left tackle J'Marcus Webb. While Long was still a superior pass-blocker, he wasn't as good of a run-blocker and committed one more penalty than Webb.
The former first overall draft pick made over $10 million more than Webb last year and is reportedly seeking a contract that pays him $10 million annually this offseason.
If Long were fully healthy, he might be worth every cent. Although, even so he may not be what the Bears actually need. Regardless, it's hard to determine what the team that signs Long will be getting.
Signing Long would be to big of a risk for the Bears. Even if it worked out, they would no longer have the money to improve other areas on the team. If it backfired, they'd be cap-strapped in the future and still have a major problem along the offensive line.
Signing Brandon Myers
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Bears fans are hungry for a tight end who can catch passes, and Myers can do that, but he offers nothing else.
New Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said he wants a tight end who can block. If that's true, they'll stay away from Myers. Myers rated as the worst run-blocking tight end in the NFL on Pro Football Focus and the second-worst tight end overall.
While Myers caught 79 passes last season, he wasn't the kind of impact player some think.
The Bears want a player who can make play in the middle of the field, but Myers didn't catch a single pass over 20 yards down the field.
Over half of his catches came on passes that traveled fewer than 10 yards, and his longest reception—with yards after the catch included—went for 29 yards. He had nine plays for over 20 yards, just six more than current Bears tight end Kellen Davis with 60 more chances.
In addition to not making big plays down the field, Myers isn't an ideal red-zone target at 6'3". While all four of Myers' touchdown catches came in the red zone, he totaled just eight catches inside the opponents' 20 all season.
If you want receptions from the tight end position, Myers can give you that, but he provides little overall impact on the game.