Coming to Grips With the Free Agent Frenzy

Like most of you, I was quite disappointed that the Bears couldn't close the deal with another couple of different linemen - even another guard would have sufficed. And the Bears also didn't sign with anyone immediately expected to be a starter, with two notable exceptions. The more I think about it however, and with how screwed up this whole year has already been, that may not be a bad thing. Follow me past the jump and I'll explain what I mean...

As has been detailed numerous times, players couldn't even so much as glance at a new playbook until the owners and players reached their agreement two weeks ago, and new free agents wouldn't receive their playbooks until they signed. So right away, any of the big free agents that moved to a new team is already semi-behind-the-eight-ball. Combine that with the Martz playbook being possibly the most complicated system in the NFL... Scary stuff, right?

Now let's consider the additions made. Running back Marion Barber, part-time goal-line/short-yardage power back, situational player. Wide receiver Sam Hurd, ideally the fifth receiver/special teams specialist. Andy Fantuz and Dane Sanzenbacher? If either makes the team, or both if the team carries 7 (or eight, Kris Adams) receivers, they're more situational/emergency players. The tight end Matt Spaeth? He's a blocker who can catch - Kellen Davis and Dez Clark both are better receiving threats, though Davis needs to see the field more in order to be a receiving threat. Adam Podlesh? Is he the new Wildcat QB? Is he gonna be the trick receiver? Oh, he's the punter? Why didn't ya say so? I guess we can stop discussing him in this context.

That leaves Roy Williams and Chris Spencer. Williams will undoubtedly be one of the top receivers on the team, but as you've undoubtedly heard, he has experience in the Martz system - a leg-up that speculative targets Sidney Rice, Mike Sims-Walker and Braylon Edwards did not. Spencer is a little more of a concern, as that makes two players (with Gabe Carimi) on the offensive line with no Martzfence experience.

Defensively, with the re-signing of Anthony Adams and Nick Roach, and the drafting of second-rounder Stephen Paea, the starting spots on the defense are just about spoken for. Defensive line additions Vernon Gholston and Amobi Okoye are both low-risk, potential high-reward players.

The point here is that, of the expected starting lineups and depending on who steals spots in camp, up to nineteen of the potential twenty-two starters on both sides of the ball have experience in the schemes they ran last season, and twenty have been in the system before (Roy Williams). Is there concern the two that haven't ever been in the scheme, Carimi and Spencer, are both linemen? Some, but it's not like they're the ones running routes. As long as Spencer learns the line calls and protections, the impact of the offseason should be minimal.

What the Bears did this offseason is improve the overall depth by signing players that aren't going to be immediately relied upon, Williams and Spencer excepted, unless they can prove they have some ability (Gholston, Okoye). They're counting on the starters they had improving and performing better in another year of their system.

It's something that might have its biggest effects in the first weeks, particularly against Atlanta and New Orleans, who both have impact rookies they're going to be working into the offenses, especially the entirety of Atlanta's draft Julio Jones. We'll see if that effect carries through the Super Bowl.

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