Missing Pieces the Chicago Bears Could Still Land
Realistically for the Bears, after they complete the signing of their rookie draft class, they do not have a lot of money left under the salary cap to make any bold moves. In order to sign free agents, they will likely have to release a player who has a larger cap hit this season (i.e. Devin Hester, Gabe Carimi).
If the team is able to free up more cap space, they could take a look at adding some more veteran depth, particularly on the defensive side of the football.
Here are five missing pieces that the Bears could still land this offseason:
Amobi Okoye: Defensive Tackle
One of the biggest moves this offseason for the Bears was franchise tagging defensive tackle Henry Melton. Melton has proven to be an effective pass-rusher and is an integral part to the Bears' Cover 2 defense.
Melton and Stephen Paea are expected to be the starters at the two defensive tackle positions, but after releasing Matt Toeaina and having not re-signed Israel Idonije, the team still needs depth at the position.
Nate Collins had some solid games last season as a rotational defensive tackle, and the team signed veteran Andre Fluellen this offseason. Despite the addition of Fluellen, the position still has a lack of depth.
A former first-round pick of the Houston Texans, Amobi Okoye has spent the better part of the past two seasons with the Bears organization. While he did not put up spectacular numbers last season (one sack), he did have a strong showing in 2011 (four sacks).
Okoye has not panned out the way many thought he would after being selected 10th overall in 2007, but considering his familiarity with the Bears defense, he could help provide depth at a position that is still a question mark after Melton, Paea, and Collins.
Austin Collie: Slot Receiver
In 2012, for the first time in years, the Chicago Bears had a go-to No. 1 wide receiver in Brandon Marshall. Marshall came to Chicago in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, and he immediately went on to break the team's single-season receptions and receiving yards records.
Marshall was quarterback Jay Cutler's primary target for much of the season with injuries and poor performances plaguing the rest of their receiving corps.
Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett are both expected to be fighting for playing time in 2013, but with Devin Hester relegated to only being a return man and Eric Weems being more of a special teams player, there is still a need for help at the position. Joe Anderson, who was activated for three games last season, and rookie Marquess Wilson will likely get a chance in training camp to vie for some playing time, but the team still needs someone who can consistently work the slot.
It would not be a surprise to see the Bears utilize Jeffery and Bennett on the outside with Marshall in the slot on occasion, but Marshall is best when playing on the outside. Bennett has played well in the slot throughout his career, but the team still lacks a true slot receiver.
Austin Collie has red flags all around him considering his prior troubles with concussions. During his four seasons in Indianapolis, he missed 22 of 64 games due to concussions and a knee injury. When healthy he was rather productive, hauling in 173 catches for 1,854 yards and 16 touchdowns in 42 games.
He is certainly a risk considering his prior history, and it is still unknown whether or not he will return, but according to IndyStar.com, Collie has said, "I'm playing. Right now, it would take a doctor to tell me, 'You can't play anymore.'"
If Collie is cleared to play, the Bears could likely sign him on the cheap, and he would give the team a true slot wide receiver.
Israel Idonije: Rotational Defensive End/Tackle
One of the more underrated players in the league, Israel Idonije had one of his best seasons in the league last year, racking up seven-and-a-half sacks to go along with a forced fumble and 29 tackles.
Idonije has the flexibility to play both inside and outside having seen time at both defensive end and at defensive tackle.
He found himself in the defensive tackle rotation after injuries and the improved play of Corey Wootton pushed him inside. He offered the Bears a solid pass-rushing threat on third downs and also improved against the run.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bears want to bring Idonije back, but nothing is imminent at this time.
If the money is right, Idonije brings experience and has shown during the later stages of his career that he has been able to improve. Bringing him back would allow the team to use him alongside Henry Melton on the inside with Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin on the outside in all pass-rushing situations.
Vince Young: Backup Quarterback
A former third overall selection in the 2006 draft, Vince Young started off his career with a bang, winning the league's offensive rookie of the year that season as well as notching his first career Pro Bowl selection.
Young threw at the Texas Longhorns' pro day, and according to Gil Brandt (h/t NFL.com), Young "put on a show" and was "magnificent" passing the ball in the pocket and on the run.
He could be seen as a bit of a risk, but given that the team likes Josh McCown and the fact that he will likely come on the cheap, he could end up being a low-risk, high-reward signing.
His ability to run and get outside of the pocket would add a nice dimension if he had to fill in for Jay Cutler, and he has enough accuracy to be productive throwing the ball underneath in the West Coast offense.
He did struggle in Philadelphia getting used to running Andy Reid's West Coast style offense, but after spending two years learning that system, the adjustment to Marc Trestman's West Coast offense should not be that difficult.
Spencer Larsen: Fullback
Last offseason, the Bears used a fourth-round selection on tight end Evan Rodriguez, but he spent the majority of the season as the team's fullback.
Rodriguez showed in college his ability to line up as a slot tight end and boasts enough athleticism to match up against smaller defensive backs.
The Bears' website still lists Rodriguez as a fullback, but given the importance of two tight end sets in Marc Trestman's offense, the team could still be looking for a more traditional fullback.
The Bears' tight end coach Andy Bischoff went on to say about Rodriguez following the team's first minicamp in early April (h/t Chicago Sun-Times):
Because of the limited number of fullbacks in this camp, that's where he's (Rodriguez) spent his time this week. But we really see him as very versatile, and he's had a very good camp also.
The team could always use him as a fullback/tight end hybrid, but in certain situations, a more traditional fullback may be desired.
Spencer Larsen is a former linebacker turned fullback and spent 2008 through 2011 with the Denver Broncos and became the first player since 2003 to start a game on both offense and defense. He spent training camp with the Patriots last summer before being placed on injured reserve in late August.
He has shown the willingness to be a lead blocker and has shown the ability to catch the football out of the backfield (14 career catches, 127 yards and one touchdown) and has proven to be a solid special teams contributor.