So much for all that talk of the Bears taking a cornerback in the early rounds. Phil Emery has struck again, grabbing two cornerbacks to help shore up an area of need for the Bears. With seven new players now in the fold, Emery has drastically shortened his wish list for next season. The wide receiver position, considered one of the team's biggest weak spots, now has three new players in place. Cornerback, another position of need, now has a big check mark next to it for next season. Emery also helped his draft position by re-signing Israel Idonije and Craig Steltz, two players who provide strong depth at their positions. The question now becomes: what's left to draft?Last season, there were plenty of knocks against the Bears' roster. Jay Cutler still didn't have a top-tier receiver to throw the ball to. The guy backing up Jay Cutler was just plain bad. The defensive line was a one-man show. Many defensive positions had little, if any, depth behind the starters. The offensive line was offensive. Emery has already fixed a couple of these problems by bringing in Jason Campbell, trading for Brandon Marshall and adding depth to the WR position, and, now, adding depth to the defensive secondary. Jerry Angelo left the team with plenty of holes, and Emery has done yeoman's work in filling up many of these holes in free agency.
So, what's left? It's hard to view today's moves as anything but a reaction to the news that came out earlier today about Amobi Okoye's imminent departure. There are some good cornerbacks to be had in this year's draft, and I had the position pegged as one the Bears would look to fill in the early rounds. There are, however, even more high-quality defensive tackles in this year's draft pool, and Emery is probably planning to have a couple hop their way onto the Bears roster later this month. While Okoye was a gamble that paid off - Angelo definitely got a good value out of the one-year deal - the Bears no longer have the money to pay Okoye what he will be worth on the open market. My guess is that Emery is thinking he'd rather take a chance on some low-cost, fresh faces than have to cut someone else to keep Okoye.
With how aggressive Emery has been in filling the team's needs before the draft, it does worry me that the Bears still have yet to make moves to improve their offensive line. My hope is that all of the team's talk about how much it believes in its current crop of linesmen is an elaborate smoke-screen to disguise their draft plans. Taking an offensive linesmen in the first round, however, would go against Emery's draft history. Since 2000, teams he has worked for have taken a total of two offensive linesmen in the first round: Marc Columbo with the Bears and Sam Baker with the Falcons. If the Bears had a top-ten pick, I know I wouldn't be the only one clamoring for an offensive tackle. Unless a top-tier tackle falls his way down to #19, I would rather the Bears fill their newest need - DT - first and deal with the offensive line in later rounds. Given that Emery's teams have taken many defensive linesmen and few of their offensive counterparts in the first round, this scenario looks more and more likely. I know these cornerback signings makes it easier for Emery to take the "Best Player Available," but I would put my money on the Bears taking the best linesman available. The Bears have no way of knowing who will fall their way, but every move Emery has made so far indicates that he'll be targeting both lines heavily in the draft.
In case the start of baseball season hasn't already awakened your inner pessimist, there is some room for doubt in Emery's drafting skills. He was a scout with the Bears when they took DE Michael Haynes in the first round in 2003. With the Chiefs, he went 0 for 2 on finding a starting defensive end with his first two picks in 2009. While Marc Columbo went on to have a decent enough career, Emery's other first-round offensive tackle - Sam Baker (2008) - has
two 41 career starts and only one full season under his belt. On the other hand, he was part of the Bears organization that found Alex Brown in the fourth round (2002) and hit on two straight DTs (Tommie Harris and Tank Johnson) in 2004. So while it's not all doom and gloom, Emery's track record on high-round linesmen is average at best. With the Bears set to draft heavily for both lines, let's just hope Emery gets these picks right.