Ranking the Chicago Bears' Remaining Free-Agent Options
The dust has settled after the first week of free agency. The Bears stayed true to form from the last few seasons and made their fair share of moves.
Now it's time for general manager Phil Emery to find the bargains on the market. Players who will fill holes, help the team and not break the bank.
The NFL draft is still two months away, and Emery will bring in more free agents between now and then. Who are the best guys for Chicago left on the market?
We rank five players who serve needs for the Bears. Not on this list is Henry Melton. The Bears can do a lot better in the draft to fill Melton's spot. They shouldn't spend the money or waste the years on him.
Who is on the list? Cycle through as we rank the five best remaining free agents for the Bears in order.
5. Running Back James Starks
The Bears and Packers have already plucked free agents from each other's team, with Green Bay getting the better of the deal so far. The Bears could one-up them by signing reserve running back James Starks.
Starks is an excellent reserve who would be able to thrive in Chicago's offense. He has averaged 4.4 yards per carry in a Green Bay offense that wasn't focused on the run until Eddie Lacy showed up.
His skill set is exactly what the Bears need in a backup to Matt Forte. Starks can pick up the blitz, run hard and catch the football. He had 29 receptions in 2011. Starks also has a history of returning kicks and could compete for that job.
The running back market has been a slow one so far in free agency. The Bears could find value in Starks as he and other backs begin to get desperate for a deal.
Signing Starks takes pressure off the coaches to try and force Michael Ford into a role he might not be ready for, and it allows general manager Phil Emery to not have to burn a draft pick on a back.
4. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick
With all due respect to Jordan Palmer, if he's the primary backup going into the season, then the Bears might be in trouble.
Yes, the Bears were able to find success in journeyman Josh McCown, but he had 50 games of experience going into last season. Palmer has thrown 15 passes in four career games and has never started.
What the Bears need is more experience and a player able to come off the bench and get hot if needed. Ryan Fitzpatrick is that player.
What gets Fitzpatrick in trouble are the interceptions. He has 93 in his career and has been a large contributor to his 27-49-1 record. The Harvard graduate could help his career by working with Marc Trestman.
Most people will want the Bears to look at a young quarterback in the draft, and they still should. It's just nice to have a player you can trust with real experience to go out and finish a game or start if Cutler goes down. Remember, Cutler hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2009.
3. Cornerback Javier Arenas
It's going to take a village to replace Devin Hester. He only missed five games throughout his career, which meant a coach's easiest job was to tell Hester to go back and return kicks.
Now, for the first time since 2005, the Bears have no clue who their return man or return men are. They have Michael Ford on the roster, brought in receiver Domenik Hixon and we featured James Starks earlier.
Why not bring in one more player? Cornerback Javier Arenas has been a solid kick and punt returner in his career. He also gives the team some depth in the secondary and could be a special teams ace should the team not bring back Sherrick McManis.
Arenas is buried in a market that still has Drayton Florence, Antonio Cromartie, Carlos Rogers, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel. There's absolutely no rush to sign Arenas, but he will be there and be there for cheap if the Bears want him.
2. Safety Ryan Clark
There are two new safeties on the roster, but the starting options are still underwhelming. If M.D. Jennings or Chris Conte is a starter on opening day, then the Bears are in for another long season.
Jennings was a starter for the Packers, but it was out of necessity and not skill. We all remember what Conte did last season. It wouldn't hurt to bring in one more quality veteran and let those two compete for a backup role.
Ryan Clark is still on the market and brings a wealth of experience and championship pedigree. At 34 years old, his age is an issue, but Clark has played in at least 15 games the last five years.
He can be the guy for a season or two. Similar to Charles Tillman, there's still value there, and Clark can be a great player to add to the locker room. He's played with Ryan Mundy before, and the two would work well together in Chicago.
1. Defensive End Anthony Spencer
It's going to take Spencer some time to get fully healthy and up to speed, but when he does, he could help a team and begin to make a strong push by midseason.
This is a situation similar to Jay Ratliff. Spencer was once a highly productive player looking to rebuild himself and find his old ways. Ratliff has worked out for the Bears and Spencer could do the same.
There's no pressure for Spencer to come in and perform right away. Willie Young and Lamarr Houston will hold down the fort. As he works his way back, he can be a great rotational pass-rusher for the Bears after a few games into the season.
Imagine Spencer being able to be as productive as Julius Peppers but for only a fraction of the cost. It's certainly worth the gamble.
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