Here we are Bears fans, the post many have been awaiting for a good while now. Decided to take a good amount of time to research the probable players to enter FA, and the list like last year will be continuously updated. Its the day before the Super Bowl, a game I still believe da Bears rightfully would be playing in if this team's roster didn't resemble an episode of M.A.S.H. Now, lets build ourselves a Super Bowl team! Lets. Make. Some, Noise! (After the Jump)
So, after a very disappointing season where a playoff contender was plagued with the injury bug and ended the year 8-8, this team is not very far away from returning to the promised land; however, major holes must be repaired if this team is to contend with the Packers and Lions within our own division, let alone other NFC powerhouses such as the Giants and 49ers. Every position will be listed with notable players except for Kickers and Punters (We don't need 'em!), but, if a shortlist must be made, then our top 3 priorities are: WR, CB, and OL. DL, LB, TE, and back-up QBs are also needs, but none as major as the previously listed top 3 IMO. Anyway, lets get straight to the fun, shall we!?
An (*) indicates a player that has potential to be tagged by their respective team
A (+1) indicates said player was not on original list, and was latter added on per request.
Plain and simple, we need help with this position, a LOT of help. Earl Bennett is our best overall receiver, who is best suited in the slot. Johnny Knox is a deep threat, and not much else, whom is in the process of recovering from back surgery. Roy E. Williams is gone, and rightfully so. Mike Tice himself has already stated a major addition must be made to the current corps. We need to sign at least 1 new starter in the line-up. Luckily for us, this is by far the deepest position in FA this year, with numerous Pro-Bowlers and quality starters all but set to hit the market.
WR Vincent Jackson - He is considered one of the top playmakers in the NFL. At 6'5", 230 pounds, he is certainly a big playmaker with a pretty nice set of wheels in his arsenal. We've seen first hand what he can do on Soldier Field turf, delivering Charles Tillman's worst performance of the year. And, he has recorded over 1,000 yards in 3 of the past 4 years. Yet, he has baggage of his own. Injuries are a real concern with him, and in addition does have a record with the law. He is also seen as the player who will seek a huge contract with whomever he signs. But, the Bears need to place a much larger amount of attention to the receiving corps anyway, so money shouldn't be an issue.
WR Dwayne Bowe (*)- Another solid producer, he is also a young player who has a great deals of upside to him. His career started off shaky with the large amount of drops he had in his first few years. Over time, though, those drops were reduced and eventually replaced with TDs. In 2010, he recorded 15 TDs in a year where the Chiefs won their division. What I like most about him are his physicality and red-zone presence. With Phil Emery being the Bears new GM, it would make perhaps the most sense to see the Bears grab him. And personally, I would have zero issues with him being the Bears' top target.
WR Wes Welker (*) - He's already stated his top priority is to re-sign with the Patriots, but, should he be available would be a player that should be investigated immediately. Now, he is no-where near as large as the majority of players to be listed, yet his capabilities are undeniably good. His position of strength is in the slot, but what a sight that would be to see him paired with Bennett in the slot. For this reason, though, he is not my top choice as we need someone who can play on the perimeter. Yet, I would also be excited to see him in the orange and navy with the orange "C" on his helmet.
WR Reggie Wayne - This is a player nearing the end of his career, but also a player where his experience would be of most value. There shall be much change in Indianapolis, and if I were to guess, Wayne will be seeking a new team to play with. He was a Pro Bowler in his prime, and still has a little left in the tank. Sign him if you want someone to stick around for a couple years while developing talent in the draft.
WR Marques Colston (*)- One of the many playmakers in a talent enriched Saints offense. While healthy, he is an absolute nightmare for DBs around the league with size and speed. If you want someone who's consistently produced big numbers throughout his career, he is your man. In 6 seasons with the Saints, he's failed to produce over 1,000 yards only once in his career (2008). Otherwise, he's recorded over 1,000 yards in 5 out of 6 seasons, including the fact he's just recorded 3 straight seasons where he finished over 1,000 yards receiving. It's not just receiving yards he's produced. He also has 48 TDs in his 6 seasons, giving you an average of 8 TDs per season. Now THATS consistency of excellence we seek in a receiver. Marques, though, has been dinged by injuries to a point where he only has 2 seasons of finishing through all 16 games (2007 and 2009). Granted, most of them are minor injuries, but that is something to keep in mind while considering this Cajun beast.
WR DeSean Jackson (*)- Here is a player that shall spark a few debates on these boards. True, he has big time weapon capability, but, he isn't anywhere close to being a #1 threat. He's a role player at best. Combine with the fact he has a rather poor attitude and couldn't produce to back his statements up, that my friends is a major red flag. But, he nevertheless has talent, and will be pursued by teams. Just don't sign this guy to be your top threat.
WR Plaxico Burress - One of the more polarizing options, he quietly had a solid season in his first year out of jail with the under-performing Jets. He certainly has size and can get separation in the end-zone, but a #1 target he is not. Like Wayne, he is long in the tooth, and we don't know how much he has left in the tank. Now in saying that, he's been a player with a long career of being a reliable producer for his respective offense. So, I wouldn't be absolutely opposed if the Bears brought him in for a look. Besides, he should be a rather cheap option.
WR Robert Meachem - Another member of the fabulous Saints offense, he's one of the "lesser" known players in New Orleans. A player who can erupt into a shining star if given a larger role in an offense, he shouldn't command too high of a salary. Robert has potential to be a real #1 if given the opportunity.
WR Steve Johnson (*)- In his 1st two seasons in the NFL, people would say "Steve Who?". In his last two seasons, he is a well known name. Coming off a pair of consecutive 1,000+ yards and recording 17 TDs in said seasons, he should be a player that is chased by WR starved teams. He has a ton of youth on his side as well as explosiveness. If there is one issue with him, though, it is his case of the drops. And not just your typical drops, but dropping would-be bombs. Patrick Fitzgerald isn't an All-Pro QB mind you, but your job as a receiver in the NFL is to catch what is known as the "Big Brown Thing" flying right at you. But, his stats speak for themselves. I would be comfortable with this potential signing.
WR Brandon Lloyd (+1)- He's a former Bear that was bounced around the country last year, going from the Denver Broncos to the St. Louis Rams in a trade. In 2010, he exploded as he recorded 1,448 yards and 11 TDs on 77 recs, with an average of 18.8 yards per rec. There are quite a few issues, though. Character is issue #1, and he's missed quite a few games due to injuries. But, what I find most disturbing is that not only was 2010 his best year by far, it was the only year where he went over 1,000 yards, and in addition he's already 30 years old. He came pretty close to going over 1,000 this past year with 966 yards, but all of this screams "1 Year Wonder". I would say he's the biggest risk on the list.
WR Mario Manningham (+1) - Manningham has spent the first 4 years of his career with the Giants being another option in their arsenal of weapons for Eli Manning. He was never their #1 receiver, but he is a great team player that deserves respect for his own abilities. Not a player you would sign to become said #1, rather sign him to provide depth.
WR Pierre Garcon (+1) - Being with the Colts for his first 4 years, his recs and rec yards have gradually increased every year he's played. In his first full season as a full time starter, he recorded 947 yards and 6 TDs on 70 recs. His main issue, though, is drops. I would expect the Colts to keep this youngster around as they rebuild their team, yet I would consider him as a #2 option to add into the Bears' corps.
CB Charles "Peanut" Tillman finally gets voted to the Pro Bowl after so many years of fine service in Chicago. Once again, though, it's the player adjacent from him that needs to be addressed. Both Zackary Bowman and Tim Jennings are FAs this year, and I only expect one of them back this year as a back-up. Corey Graham is a special teams ace, and has shown ability to be a solid back-up in the secondary. What we need is a consistent starter adjacent from our Pro Bowler. There is a pretty nice crop of CBs this year that can be said #2 CB.
CB Brent Grimes - One of the more underrated players in the NFL, he is a dependable tackler who is physical and still makes plays on the ball. He won't blow anyone away with his stats, but he is definitely a reliable player in the secondary.
CB Carlos Rogers (*) - He was someone I wanted last year, and boy did he show it! Someone with size and speed as well as toughness and intelligence, he is a true fit in a scheme like ours where physicality is demanded from our CBs. Last season, he showed he can make plays on the ball, recording 6 ints with the 49ers, who were also ranked as one of the top overall defenses in the NFL. If the 49ers fail to retain him, he is a MUST sign.
CB Brandon Carr (*) - A young player on the rise, he has shown that he is a good coverage player in 1-on-1 type scenarios. Considered as the #2 guy in Kansas City to one Brandon Flowers, this is also a player where I would expect Phil Emery to inquire about, for obvious reasons. In a Tampa 2 style scheme, he is an excellent fit.
CB Tracy Porter - The hero of Super Bowl XLIV, he is someone who's been battling injuries, but also someone who makes plays on the ball. He's a very opportunistic player who will take chances in man coverage. But, he's also made some foolish mistakes in critical moments. I feel he is a player worth taking a gamble on, but do so at your own risk.
CB Cortland Finnegan - Cortland is someone who's been known to have an attitude, while his coverage skills are solid. If you're willing to put up with potential fines for the sake of improvement, may I recommend this former Titan. It would be "fun" to watch what happens when the Bears play against the Lions if they have Finnegan in our secondary.
CB Marcus Trufant - This player is on the wrong side of 30, but is at his best when playing ball dictated by a scheme like ours. Not someone I would want to cover a good receiver, yet he is an option worth looking into. This will probably be his last "major" contract he will receive in his career.
CB Aaron Ross (+1)- He played very well last season with the Giants, but ultimately may be cut in favor of Prince Amukamara receiving more playing time. He'd make a great deal of sense to sign in terms of being a fit in Chicago with good coverage skills as well as being a dependable tackler.
In year 2 of Mike Tice's coaching being done with the OL, we've seen some improvements on all fronts. After all, they were paving the way for what was ranked as the 9th best running game in the NFL. Pass protection, though, is another story. With particular concern on the OT position, they were ranked in the top 10 in most sacks surrendered. It's way better than being #1 in sacks allowed, but improvements must still be made, especially with so many questions regarding J'Marcus Webb at LT. It would also be beneficial to add some beef in the interior. One problem, though, is the OT position is not nearly as deep as the OG position in FA, as you shall see.
OT Demetrius Bell - He is the one OT worth being mentioned as "notable" in my honest opinion. While with the Bills, he has steadily improved into being one of the under-the-radar good type LTs in the NFL. His pass protection is decent, and "decent" is a major improvement over what we currently have.
OT Marcus McNeill (+1) - The San Diego Chargers seem all but set to release this former Pro Bowler after having further issues with injuries. When he is healthy, he is one of the premier LTs in the NFL. That's the issue, though, being healthy. If anyone is the biggest risk for injuries, unfortunately, it is him. But, he is also an ideal match for Mike Tice in terms of size, strength, and athleticism. I can see the Bears giving him a "prove it" type deal and also see him brought in to push J'Marcus Webb.
OT Jared Gaither (+1) - This is another polarizing option to consider. At times, he plays great, at others, he is terrible. His motivation has been called into question a few times while he was with the Ravens. But, he may have redeemed himself a little while with the Chargers. He played rather well in his 5 starts. Is that enough to warrant a starting job? Maybe not, yet if available, might be worth to explore.
OG Carl Nicks (*) - Yup, he's back. Except this time, he's actually available! This is one of the premier OGs in the NFL, and its all but a guarantee he will be a FA since the Saints have so many players to sign. Chris Williams is a solid LG in his own right, but, if Carl Nicks were to come in fitting this new philosophy from Emery in "This is a big man's sport" then I would have zero issues seeing this happen.
OG Ben Grubbs - Now here we have a really good player that has not received the respect he deserves until of late. He will still cost money, but not nearly as much as Nicks described above. I feel the Ravens will do everything they can to keep Grubbs, and I can easily understand why.
OC Scott Wells - Center is a position that can be seen as a need for improvement, and we've seen first hand at how good of a player he can be. He's seen more of a fit in a system than a regular offense, but in the grand scheme of things, taking anyone from Green Bay that is good, is a win/win in my book.
OC Jeff Saturday - His career is almost at an end, so don't sign him unless you know for sure you have a player that can be groomed into a future starter. Saturday is still seen as one of the top Centers in the NFL, though.
OC Chris Myers (*) - The Houston Texans have had a good O-Line for years now, and Meyers has been the key leader of that line. Very good in run blocking, and excels in pass protection. If you're willing to pay some serious cash for a Center, look no further.
Julius Peppers is a beast like no other. Israel Idonije is still a solid vet who should return to Chicago. And, our DT corps have produced it's most productive season in Lovie's career with 14 sacks. However, pass rush is still an issue that needs to be looked at, and if we can get younger, that is a bonus. Also, it would be nice to look at another run stuffing DT to compliment the others in a rotation
DE Cliff Avril - With Vanden Bosh as the RDE, Avril's production has rapidly increased over the years, finishing with 11 sacks for the year. I fully expect him to search for a rather hefty contract. In Lovie's belief, one can never have enough pass rushers, so look for the Bears to make a play on this former Lion.
DE Mario Williams (*) - Coming off from a season ending surgery, I would take an err of caution with him. His price tag will go up, and is a real candidate for the franchise tag in Houston. But, if he is available, get him.
DE John Abraham - Another player that new Bears GM Phil Emery happens to know quite well, he's been a solid DE for some time now. I would much rather look into younger options, a good player to add, he would be.
DE Robert Mathis - He got his fame in the exact same scheme the Bears currently employ. This is the old-man of the group, yet he still has Pro-Bowl talent in him. If for a short term contract to aid in the development of younger players, then I'd be okay with him.
DT Aubrayo Franklin - Had a quiet season in New Orleans, but is a real run stuffer when asked to play. A year in a 4-3 system should aid in the transition to Chicago.
DL Jason Jones - The Titans have had a habit of letting go of their best D-Lineman over the years, so it may not be a surprise to see him go as well. And, he is definitely a DL worth looking at adding into a solid group in Chicago.
Not too much to choose from this year. It's pretty much 1 Pro Bowler, then everybody else. I'd expect Kellen Davis to come back and given a much greater opportunity this year with Tice wanting TEs to be more involved with the passing game than in the past 2 years. We're not getting Greg Olsen back anytime soon, so lets make due with whats left.
TE Jermichael Finley (*) - This is the one Pro Bowler I was talking about. His stats are pretty amazing for a TE, but, he also has dropped a ton of passes from Aaron Rodgers. He's a real weapon to have, yet I feel he will be both overpriced and just not a good fit in Chicago, given what I see as a rather poor blocker in the running game.
TE Fred Davis - A Redskin for the past few years, he is a rather balanced player in both blocking and receiving. His salary shouldn't be too high, either.
TE John Carlson - Another player to watch out for on the injury list, he showed signs of greatness in Seattle before he got hurt. He's said to be seeking more work in the receiving game, and Tice just so happens that he wants to open up the offense for TEs. Carlson was a fantastic blocker who can get separation in the receiving game.
TE Jeremy Shockey - One of what was seen as a nice pair of TEs in Carolina, he's not exactly a spring chicken these days. Now, in saying that, I'd still like to see him looked at, given he was a good player for years. Granted, he is not as good of a player as he once was, Shockey would still make a solid acquisition.
We're not looking for starters, rather players that can come in and fill some depth in a depth needy position. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are two of the league's best LBs. Nick Roach, meh. If a good Sam type LB can be had, then bring 'em in. But, I'd rather address this in the draft. Nonetheless, the market appears as such.
LB Stephen Tulloch - A decent vet ILB, I'd expect the Lions to try and keep him in Detroit.
LB Curtis Lofton - Yet another one of Emery's picks, a solid LB that can fill in some much needed depth. His pass coverage is solid, but reliability against the run is another issue.
LB Dan Connor - When forced back into his role, he shined. I'm certain Carolina will keep him, if he makes it through the cracks, then look into him.
LB Brendon Ayanbadejo - This is a guy we seriously need to bring back to Chicago. We all remember him for the special teams ace he once was with the Bears before filling that role with the Ravens, and saw far more playing time with the Ravens 3rd best defense. He is someone who can either step in as the starting SLB, and/or provide some valuable depth behind both Urlacher and Briggs while doing his thing on Special Teams.
Once again we had a revolving door of starters in both positions. Earlier, we gave Chris Harris the boot, and Brandon Meriweather is expected to eventually join him in FA. Again, I have confidence in the starters with Major Wright and Chris Conte, but alternatives should be considered.
SS LaRon Landry - Expected to be chased out by Shanny in Washington, he is a great SS to have in a team demanding take-aways and big hits from their safeties in Chicago. As with many others on this post, injuries are what must be monitored.
SS Michael Griffin - Inconsistency is what has defined his career. Great one year, bad the next.
SS Tyvon Branch - If you want to add a player on the rise, here is someone to look at. Good tackling, decent range, and is reliable in pass coverage.
SS/FS Chris "Hitman" Harris - Hey, he's still around. Its unlikely he'll return, but he'll always have a home in Chicago.
We already have one of the elite RBs in the NFL with Matt Forte, and a solid group behind him; however, fans will argue that a better option ought to be signed that will eventually "replace" Marion Barber. And, there are some great options in FA to pair with Matt Forte if such were the case.
RB Ray Rice (*) - Extremely unlikely, but wouldn't it be fun to have 2 of the NFL's best RBs in the same backfield?
RB Marshawn Lynch (*)- AKA "Beast Mode", he's certainly had a nice turnaround since coming out of college. While playing for the Seahawks, he's been at his best. I'd certainly think it would be fun to "Feed the Beast!" in Chicago, but like Rice above, I sincerely doubt he is allowed to walk away from Seattle.
RB Mike Tolbert - He is an absolute wrecking ball of a RB. He would compliment Matt Forte perfectly, without the headaches a certain Marion Barber has caused many Bears fans to experience.
RB Cedric Benson - Remember this guy? Former Jerry 1st Round Bust turned Cincy Pro Bowler. I don't want him back, but I'm certain someone around here will say "why not!?"
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis - AKA the "Law Firm", he's a physical runner who knows how to run in a straight line north-to-south. Decent blocker when called to protect Brady in the backfield. His value is not much, considering that the Patriots don't exactly run the ball when they have one of the GOAT playing QB in Tom Brady.
At last, the final position in this post (Like I said earlier, I ain't going into Kickers, Longsnappers, or Punters). We have Jay Cutler as the legitimate starting franchise QB after decades of incompetence with that position. It's the back-up position that needs to be addressed. As we learned the hard and painful way, you have to have both a great starting QB and a good back-up QB to succeed in the NFL. There once was a hero named Caleb Hanie. Turns out, that hero was a one game story. Then, we found another in Josh McCown, who I expect will get the first crack as the #2 QB. Now, just for fun I'll go ahead and through in a few big time names and y'all can feel free to post wherever some of these Pro Bowlers, and one "All-Pro" will be headed next year. The back-up, though, must be good, so choose wisely. (Note, there will be meatballs, I am fully aware of that)
QB Drew Brees (*)- Yea...not happening. He's either going to be tagged or re-signed with the Saints. And, if he's not back with the Saints, then 1) they are a bunch of idiots and 2) it will start perhaps the biggest bidding war in NFL history that shall not include the Chicago Bears.
QB Peyton Manning - All signs are pointing to him being cut by the Colts, regardless of whether he is healthy or not. This future HOF will be signing with a team that shall grant him the starting job the moment he walks into the office and picks up the pen. I predict he will sign with the New York Jets after an intense bidding war with the Washington Redskins. Should be fun to watch, given that the Bears don't have to sign a new starter at QB lol.
QB Matt Flynn - Ah, yes, here we are, the sole "All-Pro", future HOF back-up QB. All kidding aside, he too will be yet another former Packer back-up QB seeking a starting job. I'm betting he signs with the Miami Dolphins.
QB Kyle Orton (*)- AKA "Neckbeard" AKA "THA ORTMAN", he was well "loved" in Chicago, and I'll have to say he held his own before being shipped off in the groundbreaking trade to Denver that nailed us one Jay Cutler. I believe there was word where Orton expressed desire to return to the Windy City. Evidence would suggest the Bears at one point at least wanted him, placing a waiver claim on him during the regular season. Unfortunately, he was awarded to the Chiefs, whom were much higher in the waiver claim totem pole. If he comes to Chicago as the willing back-up, then that is a win/win for us.
QB Alex Smith (*)- He happens to be the former 1st overall pick from the 2005 draft, the same draft where Aaron Rodgers was passed up on till 24th overall. Now, he is coming off a solid season of being a game manager for the 49ers, and he is surprisingly nimble. I would assume he stays in San Francisco, or signs with a team that grants him a starting job.
QB David Carr - Another former 1st round pick, he had some okay seasons as the Texans' starting QB, but nothing special. He is a decent option to consider with the back-up job.
QB Chad Henne - I swear he has had himself some bad luck over the years. Strong armed, young, and mobile, he is a rather good choice to have sitting behind Jay Cutler and come in to win if ever called upon.
QB David Garrard (+1) - The former starting QB of the Jacksonville Jaguars has been through a rather tough path this past season. He went from starter, to being cut on day 1 of this past season. Since that time, he also had back surgery, so health is an immediate issue. Now, in saying all that, he had a rather successful career with the Jags as their starting QB. Also comes in the well known fact Mike Tice is familiar with Garrard on a personal level. I feel if anyone is likely to be brought in to compete with McCown for the #2 job, it could very well be either this guy or Orton.
And there you have it WCG. Weeks of work compiled into what I hope is my most entertaining post yet. Same rules apply as last year, as you can choose whomever you want. You can be completely realistic, or dive in and pig out. Bottomline, have a little fun. The Bears are going to be players when FA starts (while I'm at bootcamp for the Navy). Now, who do you, the fan want the Bears to sign in FA? Sound off!