The Chicago Bears are entering a critical free-agent period where they're going to try and add pieces to take the next step toward contending for a Super Bowl, but they have some interesting decisions to make on their own free agents.
Much of the discussion this offseason has been about how the Bears can improve their offense, but they have to maintain their success on defense. In order to do that, they're going to have to try and retain several of their own free agents and try to get younger through the draft.
One decision the Bears no longer have to make is on defensive tackle Henry Melton, as they placed the franchise tag on him last week.
While that move solved one problem, it created another. If they are unable to come to a long-term agreement, Melton will make $8,450,000 next season, leave the Bears with around $4 million to spend and 17 of their own free agents set to hit the market.
Bears fans shouldn't panic too much. As the Chicago Sun-Times Sean Jensen pointed out, there are quite a few moves they can make to free up some cap room, but they still have to be smart with their own free agents.
The Bears have an interesting balance to strike. They can't spend a lot of money, but can't be cheap if they're going to contend next season. Here is how they should handle their own free agents.