Now that there is officially going to be a 2011 NFL season, it is time for the free agent frenzy to begin. Normally, the free agent period starts with a bang and then fizzles down and is drawn out over a couple months. This year, due to the length of the lockout, the free agent period will be condensed and all the action will take place within the next couple weeks. On Friday, NFL teams can begin signing veteran free agents, which is exactly what the Bears need to do.
Chicago has a number of positions that they need to address in free agency, including offensive line, defensive line, corner back, safety and wide receiver. The one position that the Bears have needed a big-play difference maker at for decades is at wide receiver. Two years ago, Chicago mortgaged its future and invested a lot into the supposed quarterback of the future in Jay Cutler.
The franchise QB is entering his third year with the Bears and, needless to say, his performance has been underwhelming. In my mind, this is the make-or-break year for Cutler; his last chance. That is why if the Bears truly want to see how good he can be, the organization needs to find a big NFL red-zone receiver to be his safety blanket and go-to guy in the end zone.
Jay Cutler found passing success in Denver with a big go-to receiver in Brandon Marshall. During their years as Broncos together, Cutler and the 6'4" Marshall had a tremendous connection and filled the stat sheet as an unstoppable QB-WR duo. However, that type of large go-to receiver is something Jay Cutler has never had in Chicago.
The Bears do have a couple of average receivers in Johnny Knox and Devin Hester, but at 6'0" and 5'11" respectively, they lack the size of other top receivers in the league. As two of the fastest receivers in the NFL, their ability to burn their way down the field is their most valuable asset. Unfortunately, that speed will never help them possess the necessary size in the red zone to win jump balls and present Cutler with the much needed big target.
That leaves Chicago's 6'5" tight end, Greg Olsen, as the Bears' primary red zone threat. The problem is that the entire NFL knows that fact and puts extra coverage on Olsen any time the Bears are near the end zone. In Cutler's first year as a Bear, he spied Olsen and forced the ball to him inside the 20 on a regular basis, which led to Cutler leading the NFL in red-zone interceptions. Last year, Jay did a better job of not focusing solely on Olsen and cut his red-zone interceptions down considerably; however, he was still not as productive as the Bears need him to be inside 20.
Therefore, the Bears need to hit the free agent market eying a big wide receiver target to take pressure off of Olsen and give Cutler multiple options inside the end zone. If the Bears can land a true No. 1-caliber receiver with the size to give Cutler a target who can win a jump balls and help bail him out of some situations, then the Bears' receiving core could really thrive. With a big No. 1, Knox could maximize his skills in his true position as a No. 2 receiver.
An alignment of Knox in the No. 2 spot would also allow Hester to thrive in the slot where he is the perfect fit for the Martz offensive scheme. With a receiving corps of a big target on one side, Knox on the other, Hester in the slot, Earl Bennett in the other slot and the Bears' spring signee 6'4" Canadian receiver Fantuz Flakes coming off the bench to add more size, the Bears would have a much more well-rounded receiving core than last year and could take pressure off the running game.
This article looks at the top 18 potentially available receivers and whether they would be a fit for the Chicago Bears. I have broken the receivers into three categories: too small, tweeners and bigs. Each category progresses from least desirable player to most desirable.