Chicago Bears' Blueprint for Winning Free Agency
Free agency is approaching, and the Chicago Bears expect to be players in the market. The team does not have a ton of cap room but can still go out and fulfill needs with the right plan in place.
With holes on the offensive line, tight end and linebacker, the team has some decisions to make on who to go after and who to re-sign.
It takes a subtle balance of grabbing an impact player, finding serviceable options and focusing on your own players. Continue on as we break down the right way for the Bears to attack free agency.
Make One Big Splash Early
The Bears will fill in some gaps with mostly second-tier free agents. They still need to make a big splash either on the offensive line or at tight end.
The bigger names are sure to go early, so the team must identify the player they want and get a deal done on day one. Most importantly, they cannot get into a bidding war with other franchises.
The negotiation window likely has allowed the team to put a deal in place with a player already. New offensive line coach Aaron Kromer's relationship with Saints' left tackle Jermon Bushrod could be enough to entice the two-time Pro Bowl player to come to Chicago.
Bushrod is the likely big splash the Bears will make, but if they choose to go in another direction, then players like Martellus Bennett, Andy Levitre, Jake Long and Jared Cook are viable options.
Bring Back Key Veterans at a Good Price
Marc Trestman and his staff will have their hands full implementing a new offense and culture to the team. Continuity is important, and the new staff needs all the help it can get.
It is paramount the Bears are able to bring back some key players from last year to make the new transition smoother. This is still a team that won 10 games last year, and they can ill afford to have too much turnover.
Brian Urlacher, Lance Louis, Nick Roach, Jason Campbell and Kelvin Hayden should all be brought back. Of the those names, Nick Roach may be the player the team could be outbid for. He will get plenty of looks around the league as a potential starting middle linebacker.
The best thing about all these players, except for Roach, is that they should all be making less money than what they were last year. This, of course, saves the team money, while still keeping the same talent.
Identify the Bargains
Anybody can throw big money at a top player, but a quality general manager identifies the under-the-radar players who can help his football team.
The Bears need to take a strong look at Brandon Moore from the New York Jets. The 10-year veteran guard from Illinois will not get a huge contract because of his age, but he is still a Pro Bowl-caliber player who is an instant upgrade for this team.
Delanie Walker has had problems in the past dropping the football, but there is still good upside for the San Francisco 49ers tight end. He is an excellent blocker who can contribute on every down. Drops aside, he is still a better option in every phase than Kellen Davis.
Early Doucet was recently released (per ESPN) by the Arizona Cardinals. Here is a productive player in college who never really got going once he made it to the NFL. At 27 years old, Doucet still has time and enough in the tank to turn his career around. He can be an interesting option in Marc Trestman's West Coast-style offense.
Sign Henry Melton
Hopefully, the franchise tag put on Henry Melton was temporary. For the sake for the cap space, they need to sign him to a long-term deal.
There are conflicting theories about whether Melton is worth the big contract or not. The fact is, the team can ill afford to lose him, and there seems to be no such thing as a guaranteed deal in the NFL these days.
Melton and the Bears should be working hard toward reaching a deal. He wants the guaranteed money, and the team would like to spread out the cash long-term. If they are unhappy with his production down the road, then they can release him like everybody else does.
Remember the Draft and Don't Overreact
Free agency has kind of lost its luster due to the NFL draft. Why overpay for a veteran when you can have cheaper and younger talent.
How much is Wes Welker or Mike Wallace going to command on the open market? Yes, those are proven talents, but a player like Tavon Austin from West Virginia could be around when the Bears draft at 20. He is a lightning-fast game-breaker who can provide an element to the team that is lacking.
Should the Bears not be able to get a deal done with Brian Urlacher, Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree could be the guy to replace him. Can't find a tight end? Maybe Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert is still on the board.
Depth, special teams players and even a nickel corner can all be addressed in the draft this year. The Bears have five picks in this year's draft. Those are five opportunities to fill needs.