The Chicago Bears have several pressing needs to take care of this offseason in order to avoid a third consecutive collapse that results in missing the playoffs.
On the first day of free agency, they were definitely active in addressing those problem areas.
The team also signed dynamic tight end Martellus Bennett to give QB Jay Cutler an added weapon in Marc Trestman's new West Coast offense. Bennett himself broke the news to Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus, who relayed it on Twitter.
With minimal salary cap space and marquee players on the market—particularly from the Bears' vaunted defense—there have been plenty of rumors swirling about what the front office will do. At the forefront of speculation is future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, who may be on the way out.
GM Phil Emery may face a lot of heat if Urlacher leaves town, but it could be a possibility despite the fact that the linebacker has spent his entire phenomenal career with the franchise.
It's not necessarily Urlacher's fault—it's more due to the promise flashed late last season by Chicago's younger linebackers Nick Roach and Geno Hayes, who are due to be unrestricted free agents.
So while negotiations continue with Urlacher, there are a couple of factors that indicate retaining the longtime star may not be in the team's best interest. First, Biggs notes how productive Roach was at the end of 2012.
Nick Roach made 41 tackles in four starts as #Bears middle linebacker in final 4 games of '12 when he replaced Brian Urlacher.— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) March 9, 2013
Peggy Kusinski of NBC5 Chicago hints that other teams are in the market for Roach, and that the Bears are interested in bringing back Hayes:
Meanwhile, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport implies that not many teams other than the Bears are interested in bringing in Urlacher at all.
Hall of Famer Warren Sapp had some particularly strong, rather unkind words about Urlacher, as documented by Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.
It's probably from earlier, but Warren Sapp said on the NFL Network that Brian Urlacher should "hang it up" b/c his speed is gone. #Bears— Adam Jahns (@adamjahns) March 13, 2013
Jahns' colleague Sean Jensen does provide some optimism for Bears fans who would like to see their longtime star return for a 14th season. He expects negotiations between Chicago and Urlacher to pick up soon.
Regarding Brian Urlacher: I've gotten no indication #Bears have responded to his agents initial parameters. Would guess that'll happen soon.— Sean Jensen (@seankjensen) March 13, 2013
The Bears, with less than $7 million in cap space (h/t CSNChicago.com)—which took more of a hit after Tuesday's deals—the Bears may not be able to keep Urlacher should they want to bring both Roach and Hayes back.
The latter two are more viable options for the future, and Urlacher may be the odd man out as a result.