As we start the 2013 NFL free-agency frenzy, it's fair to wonder how the new-look Bears will approach it. They weren't particularly heavy players last year, and as this is GM Phil Emery's second go-around, one assumes it won't change.
However, new head coach Marc Trestman knows he needs more weapons and more help to keep Jay Cutler upright.
So will the Bears try to woo a few linemen, wide receivers or tight ends? And will they try and retain their own players?
It's an intriguing week for the franchise.
Over the course of the opening of free agency, check back here for any signings or departing free agents as well as what either means for the Chicago Bears and their hopes for a Super Bowl run in 2013.
While the most interesting storyline might be Brian Urlacher, there are several other potential key losses for the Bears. Will Nick Roach be back? Geno Hayes? Israel Idonije?
The Bears might need offensive help, but continuity on the defense is important, too. Which way to do lean?
Brian Urlacher, LB, UFA
Kahlil Bell, RB, UFA
Zack Bowman, CB, UFA
Jason Campbell, QB, UFA
Nate Collins, DT, UFA
Kelvin Hayden, CB, UFA
Geno Hayes, LB, UFA
Israel Idonije, DE, UFA
Lance Louis, G, UFA
Olindo Mare, K, UFA
Josh McCown, QB, UFA
D.J. Moore, CB, UFA
Troy Nolan, S, UFA
Amobi Okoye, DT, UFA
Chilo Rachal, G, UFA
Jonathan Scott, T, UFA
Nick Roach, LB, UFA
Chris Spencer, G, UFA
New head coach Marc Trestman wants versatility at the tight end position. His solution?
Former Cowboy and Giants tight end Martellus Bennett, who the Bears reportedly have reached an agreement in principal with.
Coming off a career year with highs of 89 targets, 55 receptions, 626 yards and five touchdowns, Bennett not only is a versatile and athletic receiver, but he can block as well.
He was woefully underused in Dallas, and seems to have just scratched the surface in New York.
Of course, we're a bit unsure of his ceiling, but by all accounts Trestman and his offensive staff expect a lot from their tight ends.
We knew Kellen Davis wasn't that guy.
Bennett looks like he just might be.
I'll try to update this with contract specifics when this becomes officially official.
I grade this move a B+. Not a giant free agency splash, but a solid signing. Bennett has some question marks and not a ton of productive history, but looks like a guy on the upswing.
To me it's a solid, safe signing and a good start.
The Bears clearly need help along the offensive line. They have to protect Jay Cutler better in the coming season and to that end, reports say they have signed former Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod.
Bushrod was Pro Football Focus' 44th ranked tackle, only three spots ahead of J'Marcus Webb and according to their grades, not as good in pass blocking.
Now, the offensive line for the Saints had issues last year, no doubt and over the long haul, Bushrod has been much better than Webb. He was certainly better at run blocking last year.
Here's a thought though—either Webb or Bushrod (probably Webb) will be moving to right tackle. The Bears had Jonathan Scott (he was horrible) and Gabe Carimi (who actually rated worse) there last year and need an upgrade.
So Webb to right tackle (which might be a better fit) and Bushrod to left?
If they do that, it could be a big boost to the line, especially if Carimi moves to guard permanently.
If that's the case, I give this a B+.
In a move you could see coming without binoculars or a crystal ball, Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk has reported that the Bears have released tight end Kellen Davis.
Davis was supposed to be a big part of the 2012 offense but that never happened, in part because of the offense and in part because of him. He counted as $2.5 million against the cap and will probably be just one of several players who will be cut or restructured in the coming months.
Bennett is more dynamic, athletic and a better blocker than Davis, who has underwhelmed for a few years now.
I expect him to find a home, though likely not right away. He has a very specific role, and will only fit into a few teams.
It seems as though the Bears might be closing up shop in free agency according to ESPN's Kevin Seifert.
As Seifert puts it, the Bears have spent pretty much all of their cap space. Now, they can restructure some contracts or cut players but by and large they seem hesitant to overspend (as it really looks like the Lions are doing).
That's smart and as much as we'd like to see them grab a guard or more defensive help, they'll sit pat after addressing two big needs.
Does that mean they won't find a way to bring the rest (or any) of their free agents back? It might. That's the price you pay for going big early.
If it works, you're a genius. If it doesn't you're working on the resume and looking for work.
ESPN Chicago's Jeff Dickerson is reporting that the Bears have re-signed defensive tackle Nate Collins to a one year deal worth $715,000 dollars.
This is an 'upside move' since Collins did almost nothing last season, aside from being suspended one game for violating substance abuse policy and then was inactive for half the season.
According to Dickerson, Collins knew defensive coordinator Mel Tucker from when they were in Jacksonville back in 2010/2011.
This gets a C as a signing—not bad, not good. Just there.
As we're well into free agency now, it's worth looking at a few of the Bears' free agents and seeing where they landed.
With Brian Urlacher's status still in limbo, the two most watched Bears free agents were Geno Hayes and Nick Roach.
Hayes signed a two year, $2 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The value makes sense to me—he's a fair player but never impressed me last year and while the Bears could have made a stronger play for him it's no big deal they didn't.
Meanwhile Urlacher's other, more direct replacement, Nick Roach, has signed with the Oakland Raiders. Roach's contract is believed to be worth between $3 and $4 million dollars over multiple years.
Again, could the Bears have worked something out? Sure. However, Roach played OK, but not great, as Urlacher's replacement last season.
Up against the cap and with some serious offensive needs, the Bears chose to put their money elsewhere.
Neither of these two players was going to replace Brian Urlacher (if he indeed is gone). Maybe one or both might have come close to his stats, but what he does on the field and his presence in the defense are not easily replaced nor is it something I see either player capable of doing.
So while it would be great, from a consistency standpoint, to have had one or both of them back, not having them isn't the end of the world.
Sean Jensen of the Sun-Times is reporting that the Bears have reached a one year deal with former Denver Bronco D.J. Williams.
Details on the contract have not surfaced as of Friday afternoon.
Williams didn't have a tremendous season for the Broncos and was suspended for part of the year—a huge contributing factor in his release from the club.
A versatile player who can work out of any linebacker spot, it's likely he will spend most of his time as the middle linebacker, replacing the departed Brian Urlacher.
This is a short term fix though, so as we talked about the other day in this article, expect a high pick spent on a new inside linebacker. For now though, if Williams can stay out of trouble, he should be a productive transitional player for a Bears team in need of one.