Since the highway robbery of the Dolphins for Brandon Marshall (maybe we included Professor Copperfield's Miracle Legumes in the trade) the Bears have quietly resigned numerous players from last year's squad and filled some potential special teams holes by adding Weems and Costanzo (I will, as long as he is on the team, struggle with his writing his name versus Costanza). Here we are a week later and the pickens are slim, so what is left for the Bears to do before the draft hits in April? Hit the jump to take a look at the remaining work ahead for Phil Emery and his staff.
Resign Amobi Okoye- I'm surprised that Okoye hasn't got much, if any, interest on the free agent market as a young defensive tackle that can be productive in a rotation and shouldn't cost a ton of money. Re-upping with Okoye means we return 80% of our defensive tackle rotation from last year (the classy Anthony Adams being the lone exception) and don't need to spend any time during the draft waiting for the ghost of Jerry Angelo to crash the party and draft some pool jumper. I haven't heard any news about Okoye's contract demands, but it is apparent from him still being available and the minimal discussion surrounding his availability that he shouldn't be expecting too much.
Add one more veteran that could start - The Marshall trade took care of our #1 wide receiver concerns, and bringing back Tim Jennings and Kellen Davis means we don't need to add a starting caliber cornerback or tight end. However, between defensive end, linebacker, and offensive tackle, I think we need to add one more guy that is either an upgrade over J'Marcus Webb, Nick Roach, or Israel Idonije, or at least close enough in talent to give us options if one of those guys would struggle or get injured. There isn't a lot of talent left in free agency, but filling one of those three spots would give us even more flexibility come draft time.
We all accept that Idonije should not the lone starting option opposite Peppers; as Les pointed out earlier, Wimbley would have been nice in theory, but it really wasn't going to be a great fit for the Bears' defense (not to mention our salary cap). However, we do need a pass-rush specialist to mix-in, or at least someone more talented than Corey Wootton (which shouldn't be that hard to find). I know Mark Anderson's available, and I'm loathe to bring him back, but another end needs to be brought in either through the draft or the remainder of free agency. Freeney could still be released, but cap considerations would likely come into play as to whether we could even afford him.
If we don't add a guy on the defensive line, the offensive line could obviously use another warm body to push Webb (either to play better or to the bench). There are more options at the tackle spot left in free agency than defensive end, but these guys all have some kind of flaws that are preventing them from thus far being snatched up. Former Bills tackle Demetrius Bell is young (27) and decent, and is looking for someone to offer him a better deal then the Bills. Would he lock down the tackle spot for five or six years? Doubful, but he could be better than Webb now. Marcus McNeil is out there, but I don't think we jump on him due to injury concerns (and haven't heard a peep about the Bears being interested in him). Former Bengal Anthony Collins or even ex-Giant Kareem McKenzie could be options. Again, the Bears aren't looking for top-tier guys, but veterans that could fill a need and slide into play if needed.
If we don't go after a defensive end or offensive tackle, then grab a linebacker. The market for linebackers favors the teams right now, with Stephen Tulloch, London Fletcher, Curtis Lofton, and David Hawthorne all available. Chicago is flush with players at the linebacking position right now, but what we still don't have is a guy that can adequately step into a starting spot and help the defense, or even challenge Roach for playing time. Any of those four mentioned above would give us a chance to upgrade the unit in general, and especially if one of the starters went down with an injury. Since the market is so soft right now, you could probably grab Hawthorne or Fletcher on an incentive based one- or two-year contract.
Regardless of how the rest of free agency shakes out, if the Bears can bring back Okoye and add another decent veteran at DE, LB, or OT, Phil Emery will be playing with house money in the draft with a ton of options available to him. I won't be disappointed if the Bears don't add to their already solid free agency showing, but would be even more impressed with Emery if we did.