3 Players the Chicago Bears Will Miss the Most in 2013
Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has made some tough personnel decisions so far during the 2013 offseason.
Some of those decisions were also incredibly unpopular.
Regardless of how his moves are perceived by the public, Emery has done what he feels is best to build a championship team under the salary cap. He is thorough and businesslike in his approach to building a team. No player comes back if he isn’t worth the price. Unfortunately, his calculations mean some popular and productive players have to leave Chicago.
The franchise will miss a few of those players just as much as the fans will. Some of those salary cap casualties were important contributors on offense and defense.
Chicago has not re-signed Lance Louis or Israel Idonije, but both players are still on the free-agent market. Since it’s still possible for them to return to Chicago, neither player is eligible for this list.
Nick Roach signed with the Oakland Raiders this offseason (via NFL.com), but Emery has been active in free agency since then. NFL.com reported later in March that the Bears signed two quality linebackers: former Bronco D.J. Williams and former Panther James Anderson.
Roach was a versatile player, but the Bears have more than adequately replaced him.
Offensive duds Kellen Davis and Jason Campbell will certainly not be missed in Chicago. While Campbell could be better under different circumstances, Davis’ inability to catch the ball made him a popular target of criticism for disappointed fans.
There are three other departures that the Bears will definitely feel in the upcoming season.
3. D.J. Moore, CB
D.J. Moore was the nickelback for the Chicago Bears the past few years. He was drafted in the fourth round in 2009, and he served as a backup to Charles Tillman, Corey Graham and Tim Jennings during his career.
Moore has a nose for the ball, with 10 interceptions over his first four seasons. Though Moore is only 5’9”, he is scrappy and plays bigger than his size.
Whenever Moore was on the field, he brought great energy to an already high-energy defense. Tillman and Jennings were arguably the best cornerback tandem in the league in 2012, and Moore pulled his weight when he joined them in nickel packages.
Moore had the 42nd-best overall rating for a cornerback in 2012 at plus-3.1, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). As a third cornerback in a 32-team league, Moore was obviously playing above expectations.
It will be difficult for Chicago to get another nickelback who can match Moore’s production.
2. Johnny Knox, WR
Johnny Knox didn’t play for the Bears in 2012, but he was Chicago’s leading receiver in 2010 and 2011. He suffered a terrible back injury in a game against the Seahawks in December 2011 that sidelined him for the entire 2012 season.
Knox announced his retirement in February 2013 (per NFL.com): “I’m moving on and going forward.” His retirement was not surprising, but it was still a blow for the Bears.
Some moments in the NFL transcend football, such as Pat Tillman’s memorial and Kevin Everett’s recovery. The brutal injury Knox sustained was another moment. The man is always more important than the football player. Although football isn’t in his future, the most important thing is that Knox is in overall good health and good spirits.
Bears fans can certainly be grateful for that, but they will also miss Knox’s contributions on the field.
Last season, Brandon Marshall led the Bears’ receiving corps with 1,508 yards. Earl Bennett and rookie Alshon Jeffery were next on the team with 375 and 367 yards, respectively.
In other words, the Bears could really use a guy who had close to a 1,000-yard season to play across from Brandon Marshall. Knox would have provided another legitimate receiving threat so opposing defenses couldn’t key in on Cutler’s favorite target.
Hopefully Jeffery remains healthy this season and produces consistently as a No. 2. There’s no doubt that Johnny Knox would have been a big boost to the offense though.
1. Brian Urlacher, LB
Nick Roach may be easily replaced by D.J. Williams and James Anderson, but potential Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher is not.
Much has been made of the public break between the Bears and Urlacher. The two sides could not agree on a salary, and Urlacher doesn’t seem to be willing to consider playing in Chicago ever again.
It could be argued that the Bears disrespected and lowballed Urlacher, or it could be argued that Urlacher was stubborn and unwilling to take a hometown discount (like all-time great Tom Brady did in New England) to make it work with the Bears.
Either way, Urlacher’s presence will be missed.
Early in the season, it appeared that Urlacher had lost a step. Projecting for a whole season, Urlacher was on track for less tackles in 2012 than 2011. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Urlacher was the 44th-best inside linebacker in the NFL in 2012.
On the other hand, Urlacher forced and recovered two fumbles, intercepted a pass for a touchdown and defended seven passes last season.
Which statistics tell the real story?
All of them form a full picture of Urlacher’s season. While Urlacher will never be what he was earlier in his career, he can still contribute. Urlacher probably has one or two more NFL seasons in him before his tank is completely empty.
The main reason that Chicago will miss Urlacher is because of his leadership and knowledge of the game. Urlacher acts as a defensive quarterback on the field, and it is doubtful that D.J. Williams will be the cerebral leader Urlacher has been. At the very least, he cannot match Urlacher's knowledge of the Cover-2.
It’s kind of like us with losing (Charles) Woodson. ... It’s tough to lose a guy of that leadership ability. Playmaking aside, I think both guys can still play at a high level. They are guys who bring more than just their on-the-field ability. They bring so much more to a locker room and a defense. That veteran presence, that leadership, that track record they have, the experience.
For those reasons, the Chicago Bears will miss Brian Urlacher more than any other departing player in 2013.
*All basic statistics provided by ESPN.com.