Gone are the days of the Chicago Bears keeping their pocketbooks closed, and being passive during Free Agency. And gone are the days of focusing exclusively on the defense. There's a new sheriff in town...
You know who has now been put on notice? Jay Cutler.2013 his final year under contract, and now no more excuses.— Dane Noble (@WCGBearsBlog) March 12, 2013
It wasn't long ago when the start of free agency in the NFL was just a trigger for Chicago Bears fans to go take a nap. Season after season, not too much would happen.
You see, long-time general manager Jerry Angelo was a defensive guy, as was head coach Lovie Smith. As such, the Chicago Bears were a defensive team. Do just enough on offense to score a few points, and the defense would sack the quarterback, cause some turnovers, and probably even score some points themselves. In other words, let the defense hold their opponents to a couple scores or less, and hope that the offense just doesn't screw anything up.
With that philosophy also came the approach to building a roster... Angelo believed in building through the draft, and rarely made moves during free agency. And when he did, it was more than likely an undersized pass rusher on the inside, or a speedy pass rusher on the outside.
Of course, there were exceptions, but they were few and far between. Lots of naps were taken by Bears fans during free agency, for many years in a row. And they would awaken from those naps wondering if their dreams had actually come true, only to find that absolutely nothing had been done.
Now, in 2013, there's a change occurring. Second year general manager Phil Emery not only rocked the boat after the 2012 season, but he threw the Chicago Bears orbit completely out of whack. This isn't just a scheme change, but a complete and total shift in philosophy... Possibly the largest paradigm shift in the team's history.
The Chicago Bears are no longer a 'Get off the bus running and let the defense go win games' team-- They are now becoming what many other NFL teams have recently shifted to: An offensively-minded football club. Enter Marc Trestman.
Peter King stated during the NFL Combine that when Jay Cutler gets the game plan each week, he'll look it over and say 'This guy thought of everything.'
Trestman is a very large offensive brain, and Emery knows that he can't be successful if not given the proper pieces to work with. That was the biggest failure after hiring Mike Martz in 2010. He had the system, just not the personnel. Emery won't let that happen again.
MARTELLUS BENNETT, TE: The first few hours of NFL free agency on Tuesday brought with it a couple of big moves for the Chicago Bears, and both were on the offensive side of the football. Tight end Martellus Bennett, one of the highest-profile at his position this offseason, was signed immediately. The 6'6, 265 pound tight end is a tremendous blocker, something that the Bears offensive line is not known to do well, and will be a significant red zone target for quarterback Jay Cutler. In 2012 with the New York Giants, Bennett amassed 55 receptions for 626 yards and 5 touchdowns. He will provide an much-needed upgrade to a group of tight ends that was arguably one of the worst in the NFL last season.
More on the Bennett signing HERE.
JERMON BUSHROD, LT: Shortly after Bennett was signed, Phil Emery struck again, and this time, in what was potentially the largest position of need on the entire roster. Two-time Pro Bowler Jermon Bushrod, formally working under Aaron Kromar in New Orleans, signed a five year contract. Kromar is, of course, the Chicago Bears' new offensive coordinator, and his primary responsibility will be to shore up the offensive line. Consider this a significant step in the right direction.
More on the Bushrod signing HERE.
The avg salary for Jermon Bushrod $7.193 million makes him highest-paid offensive lineman in #Bears history.— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) March 12, 2013
Day one was a success, by all accounts, and there will likely be more moves made in coming hours. Cap space is still a relative issue, so some cuts are undoubtedly on the horizon.
BRIAN URLACHER UPDATE: For the first time in Urlacher's 13 year NFL career, he is a free agent. We heard a few days ago that a new deal would potentially be in place this week, but that's now not looking too likely. According to Vaughn McClure, Urlacher's camp laid out their proposal to the Bears last Thursday, and the Bears didn't even bother to counter:
Urlacher had hoped to secure at least a two-year deal with the Bears, the financial terms of which were undisclosed. Such a deal still is a possibility based on what transactions the Bears make to improve their financial standing.
Several teams have inquired about the possibility of adding Urlacher, according to a league source. Yahoo Sports reported the Cowboys as one of those teams, while the others remain unknown. Former Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is the defensive line coach in Dallas, and Urlacher has high regard for Marinelli.
Stay tuned to WCG for all the latest and greatest...