Remember this guy? He's the one the Bears signed to a hefty deal two years ago. The Bears appear to be going for a different approach now.
So, what's been going on this offseason? Nothing? Lots of free agents just going by the waysi-- oh, wait, you mean the Bears have actually been active over the last three weeks?
The Bears have certainly been busy, adding a total of three receivers, a linebacker, resigning one backup quarterback and adding another, adding a running back to pair with Matt Forte, and now a pair of cornerbacks. Only one of those players, a receiver, fits what might be called a "marquee" move, but I have no problem with the depth-building strategy. For a few reasons why, hit the jump.
First and foremost, the Bears, like all teams, have limited resources. They entered the offseason with some significant cap space, but trading for Brandon Marshall (north of nine million) and tagging Matt Forte (north of seven million) ate huge chunks of that, with other significant needs to be addressed. Adding Mario Williams would have eaten the rest of the cap room, if not more. Kelvin Hayden may never be confused for Devin McCourty or Darelle Revis, but Hayden on a one-year minimum deal brings in a player who's started a decent quantity of games in the NFL.
I'd love for my team to be able to field a wide receiver corps of Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Wes Welker, and Vincent Jackson, from 1 to 5, not to mention signing Mario Williams, dragging Patrick Willis out of San Francisco, and even finding a way to bring tackle Joe Thomas over. Problem is, not only is it impossible to bring that much talent in, it would also be prohibitively expensive, in both whatever trade value would be required and in actual cap room.
Second, the reason the Bears didn't make the playoffs wasn't because the starters were insufficient. This was a team that was 7-3 after beating San Diego - and how many of us were ready to print playoff tickets after that game? It wasn't so much the starters struggling as it was the players behind them when called into action. Caleb Hanie couldn't do the job, so Jerry Angelo brought in Josh McCown. Phil Emery brought in Jason Campbell, another player with solid starting experience.
Third, Emery's plan is to ensure that he reduces his team's needs. By signing multiple players at positions, it increases the likelihood that at least one of them will stick. Instead of relying on Josh McCown, it's Jason Campbell and McCown competing for the spot. Instead of Zackary Bowman, it's Kelvin Hayden, Tim Jennings and Jonathan Wilhite fighting for the #2 spot. If receivers, the backup quarterback and cornerback spots are solidified, it's less for Emery to worry about in the draft and down the line.
No, the team didn't add any offensive linemen or defensive linemen yet. But that's okay, because games aren't being played that count yet. Between the draft and training camp cuts, there's still time for the Bears' staff and front office to identify players that they feel can help the team.
But I'm getting off the point. The point is, while the moves the Bears have made may have been largely underwhelming, they're still important, and still serve a purpose to making the team better. Ideally you'd like to sign outstanding talent at a reasonable price, but sometimes that just doesn't happen - teams overpay, the market is driven up, and players are priced out. So it's important for teams to make the most of each dollar spent. These players might not make the impact or provide the difference-making ability of a high-priced free agent, but they can still contribute.
What do you guys think - if you were running a team in the similar state as the Bears, would you prefer the instant impact of the big free agent, or the multiple lesser deals?