5 Big Moves the Chicago Bears Could Make in 2014 NFL Free Agency
An 8-8 team with a poor defense will make some major moves, and a big chunk of those free agents will not return next season.
Should the Bears keep the same scheme next year, they will look to keep Henry Melton at a discounted rate due to his injury and draft another young defensive tackle. That still leaves questions at defensive end, safety and cornerback.
This is a list of five potential players the Bears could bring in if they want to make a big splash. We even threw in a wide receiver for good measure. The team can't afford all five players, but could realistically bring in two of these guys with some shuffling around. We are looking at you, Julius Peppers.
Oakland Raiders Defensive End Lamarr Houston
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is still in position and the Bears haven't given any word they are willing to abandon the 4-3 base defense for the 3-4. What they could do is start to look at players who are fits for both styles.
Oakland Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston has the size, strength and flexibility to play in either defense. He can be a rushing end off the edge in a 4-3 or play more of a pass-rushing defensive tackle style similar to J.J. Watt in a 3-4.
The durable 26-year-old has only been in the league four seasons and is now entering the prime of his career. He could be the big-ticket player the Bears look towards if they release Julius Peppers and rebuild the defensive line.
Washington Redskins Outside Linebacker Brian Orakpo
Should the Bears completely ditch the 4-3 style and replace it with the 3-4 defense, then they are going to need impact players who fit the mold.
Shea McClellin would move to his natural position as a pass-rushing outside linebacker, Lance Briggs will likely move inside next to Jon Bostic and the team would say goodbye to James Anderson and D.J. Williams.
Bringing in Brian Orakpo would help further develop McClellin and bring an established pass-rusher to the team. Orakpo has 39.5 sacks during his five seasons in the league.
Cleveland Browns Safety T.J. Ward
Safety was a troubling position for the Bears all season. Chris Conte received the brunt of the blame, but Major Wright deserves more than his fair share. Wright is a free agent who is unlikely to be retained.
Many point to Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd as the best safety on the market, but T.J. Ward is nipping at his heels. Ward also makes more sense in free agency.
Byrd will cost more and the Bears can find a free safety in the draft. It is wiser to take Ward as the more inexpensive option and solidify another player in the box to slow down the opposing team's rushing attack.
Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver Emmanuel Sanders
The Bears were dynamic on offense in 2013. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery had a lot to do with that, but the team still lacks a viable option in the slot.
Should Chicago decide to cut ties with Earl Bennett and Devin Hester, then they can replace both with one guy. Emmanuel Sanders is a productive speedster who can stretch the field and return kicks.
Imagine if the Bears lined Marshall, Jeffery and Sanders out wide with Jay Cutler under center. That receiving core would stand up against any in football and certainly make up for some defensive woes.
Tennessee Titans Corner Back Alterraun Verner
Tim Jennings is back in the fold, but Charles Tillman is an aging question mark. One of the toughest players to find in the draft is a good cover corner.
The Bears might look to the draft to find a defensive end or safety because those players typically can be ready right away, but it takes corners some time. Why not go after the best cover corner on the market?
Alterraun Verner is tough, physical and would be the perfect compliment to Jennings. Both players would take a ton of pressure off the safeties up top and allow extra time for pass-rushers to get to the quarterback.
Verner had five interceptions last season, including one for a touchdown. The Bears need to get back to their turnover-creating ways on defense, and it starts with Verner.