Predicting Chicago Bears' Free-Agent Signings
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The Bears have about $12 million to spend in free agency, but with the franchise tag to Henry Melton, that takes a big chunk of the number.
The organization will most likely work to get a long-term deal done with Melton to reduce the cap number. They can still spend money in other areas by restructuring with some of the players on their roster.
Julius Peppers' contract could be redone to reduce the over $16 million cap hit coming this season. Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings could also be signed to extensions to free up some money.
After some creative work to get extra cap space, the Bears can realistically sign these seven players in free agency.
Chicago Bears Middle Linebacker Brian Urlacher
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There's some talk of the Bears drafting Manti Te'o to replace Brian Urlacher. It's just talk and very unlikely to happen. The Bears would like to find Urlacher's replacement and it may come in this year's draft, but it will probably not come in the first round.
Brian Urlacher wants to come back to Chicago, and more importantly, realizes there isn't a huge market for him. The Bears want to bring him back for continuity and to avoid the PR hit of letting a beloved figure walk away.
This deal will likely get done because it's important and it makes sense for both sides. Urlacher has his swan song in Chicago and it won't cost the Bears a fortune.
Contract: one year, $4 million
New Orleans Saints Left Tackle Jermon Bushrod
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The Bears would like to address their left tackle issue in the draft, but early indications are showing there will not be a worthy player by the time they pick at No. 20.
The team can ill afford to take a gamble on whether a player will fall to them, nor can they reach for a tackle again just to pick one. They have learned their lesson from Gabe Carimi and Chris Williams.
This means they go after a tackle in free agency. It is an unusually strong class for tackles. Most of the time teams do not let franchise left tackles hit the market. Branden Albert is a good choice, but given new offensive line coach Aaron Kromer's relationship with Jermon Bushrod, that just makes more sense.
Kromer and Bushrod spent four seasons together, and Bushrod made the Pro Bowl in 2011 under Kromer's tutelage. Bushrod would relish the opportunity to continue his career with his influential coach.
Contract: four years, $42 million
Buffalo Bills Linebacker Nick Barnett
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The Bears might want Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach back, but Roach might get a bigger contract offer from an overzealous team forcing the Bears to look in a different direction.
Did you know Nick Barnett played a full 16 games in each of the past two seasons? Probably not because it happened in Buffalo, but he played a very good weak-side linebacker for the Bills in a 4-3 scheme.
There are two things that will attract the Bears to Barnett. The first is his veteran presence, and the second is his past experience in the NFC North from his Packers days. He is a good replacement for Roach and will not cost a lot for a couple of years.
Contract: two years, $4.5 million
Miami Dolphins Quarterback Matt Moore
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The problem with Jason Campbell was he was very tentative coming off the bench. He was gun shy and looked scared to push the football down the field.
Campbell will not be back with the Bears next year, meaning they need to find a new guy to back up Jay Cutler. Somebody who is not shy at all coming into a game and doing what he can to win.
Matt Moore is a perfect fit. The former Panther and Dolphin has the intangibles to be a good backup. He will not be back with Miami as they look to put all their eggs into the Ryan Tannehill basket.
Moore and Cutler are similar guys. Both are gunslingers who like to take chances, and both need the expertise of Marc Trestman.
Contract: two years, $4.4 million
Indianapolis Colts Cornerback Darius Butler
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There is a possibility Kelvin Hayden could be back, but the team will likely let D.J. Moore go. Hayden was an average nickel, but the team could look to upgrade and it would not cost too much money.
Darius Butler had four interceptions last season, and two of those went for pick-sixes. Sounds like he can fit in with the Bears' opportunistic defense, right? Butler would be a very good nickel corner who understands the Cover 2 scheme.
Contract: three years, $3.3 million
Carolina Panthers Wide Receiver Louis Murphy
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One element lacking last year for the Bears was a vertical threat. Johnny Knox was injured and Devin Hester could not be relied on as a consistent deep threat.
Last year, Louis Murphy was traded to Carolina but just couldn't get going in that offense. When he first came into the league with Oakland he was a solid No. 3 option with great speed and an ability to get past the defense.
At 6'2'', 200 lbs, Murphy has good size. The Bears are on a trend of picking up larger receivers and he fits the mold.
Murphy is worth the signing because he's still young, has a ton of speed and because his production has been so low he won't cost much money. He can rejuvenate his career in Chicago and benefit from being on the field with Brandon Marshall.
Contract: three years, $5.5 million
Green Bay Packers Tight End Jermichael Finley
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If you are saying right now, "Wait, Jermichael Finley is not a free agent," then you would be correct. He is due to make over $8.5 million from the Packers this year going into the final deal of his contract.
At only 25, Finley still has his best years ahead of him despite the injuries and declining production.
The Packers do not want to pay him that when they are thinking about paying Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews. Finley has already said he will not take a pay cut and is willing to walk away.
He wouldn't have to walk far. The Bears would be interested and would jump all over Finley should he hit the open market. Remember all those things Finley said about Urlacher? Remember how he torches the Bears every time they play? All would be forgotten if he comes down the road from Wisconsin to Chicago.
Contract: five years, $44 million