NFL free agency is quickly approaching, and who ends up signing where, will dictate some teams draft boards. If the Bears figure out a way to make a splash, they'll have a litany of options with their 20th selection in the first round, and at least one NFL analyst predicts big things for Chicago in free agency.
Evan Silva, Senior NFL Editor for Rotoworld, and writer for NBC Sports, recently dropped his Top 50 Free Agency Forecast, and it had a Chicago Bears feel to it. It wasn't just because he had the Bears' starting defensive tackle, Henry Melton on the list at #9, but because he believes the Bears will be players for two other big ticket free agents.
He doesn't get into the 'how" in regards to fitting everyone in under the cap, but I'll assume he's expecting a few players to restructure their deals.
If Chicago salary cap guru Cliff Stein can figure out a way to make what Silva predicts come true, the Bears will be sitting pretty come draft time.
In regards to Melton, Silva predicts the Bears slap him with the franchise tag. Here's what he had to say about Chicago's Pro Bowl DT;
The surest way to torpedo an opposing passing game is to attack it with interior pressure. Melton does that like a rolling ball of butcher knives from his three-technique tackle position, registering 13 sacks over the past two seasons and getting better every year. The 2013 franchise number for interior defensive linemen costs a reasonable $8.306 million.
Free Agent Forecast: Bears via the franchise tag.
I'd much rather the Bears figure out a long term deal for Melton, but if that proves problematic, I do think the tag will be in play. They simply can not allow a young, talented, DT to get away.
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com agrees that Melton is likely to get the franchise tag from the Bears in his Top 85 Free Agents piece.
Scrolling down to #14 on Evan Silva's Top 50, he predicts the left tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs will be donning the Navy and Orange in a couple weeks.
Left tackle Branden Albert -- At the Scouting Combine, coach Andy Reid greased the skids for Albert's departure by calling a 2012 back issue that only cost him three games "a fairly significant injury." Significant or not, the comments were telling. Bears GM Phil Emery's team is needy at tackle, and Albert was drafted by the Chiefs in Emery's first year as Kansas City's college scouting director.
Free Agent Forecast: Bears on a five-year, $37 million contract.
Even though I've been a vocal in my support for J'Marcus Webb, I also know that Albert is a much better player. If the Bears did sign Albert, Webb would be in the mix on the right side and/or as the swing tackle. More competition at tackle is a very good thing.
NFL.com's Rosenthal also speculates that the Bears would be a logical landing spot for Albert.
It was Silva's #17 free agent that caught me off guard, even though the Bears are in the market for another receiver, I think they'd rather find a guy that can stretch the defense and not a slot guy. Even if the slot guy is one of the best in the business.
Wide receiver Wes Welker -- Although they eventually leaned on him due to Aaron Hernandez and Julian Edelman's injuries, the Pats opened last season essentially phasing Welker out of their offense. It's probably a sign of things to come. Welker is 32 and not under consideration for New England's franchise tag. The Patriots simply don't value him as highly as it seems like they should.
Free Agent Forecast: Bears on a three-year, $27 million contract.
I suppose if the Bears did find a way to snag a player that caught over 100 balls in five different seasons that would be helpful to their offense, but I just don't see him leaving New England. The Bears have one very physical do it all receiver, one young prospect that aspires to be like the first guy, but they are missing a legit take the top off a defense threat, and Welker isn't that guy.
What do you guys think? Would you like to see this trifecta locked up for the Bears in 2013? Could the Bears even finagle the cap in order to add these three?