Phil Emery has been busy, busy, busy this offseason. He made his major roster moves early by adding Jermon Bushrod and Martellus Bennett, but has done a solid job of adding talented depth since then, bringing in six more players that will have a variety of expectations next season. Let's take a quick look at the free agents Emery has brought in on one- or two-year "prove-it" deals (which excludes stud additions Bushrod and Bennett) and vote in the poll for which new Bear you are most excited to have on the field for Chicago this season. I've listed them from least excited to most excited to have in Chicago.
Turk McBride, Defensive End: McBride is a six year veteran with experience at both defensive end and tackle, making him a cheaper, less talented potential replacement for Israel Idonije. He was a part-time player with the Saints the past two seasons, starting fifteen games and collecting two sacks. Expectation: Doesn't make the roster season roster, in part because Idonije returns (fingers crossed).
Excitement Level: Waking up for work (i.e. not excited)
Tom Zbikowski, Safety: Big Z (not that one) is a former third-round pick of the Ravens who spent last season with the Colts, starting eleven games and collecting twenty-seven tackles, one sack and one interception. Expectation: Provide quality depth behind starting safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte and contribute on special teams. Zbikowski also makes the Bears' safety stable of third-round picks total four, along with Brandon Hardin. With Hardin's build and Z's boxing career, in the least the Bears' will have an intimidating looking couple of dudes in the secondary.
Excitement Level: Found a penny
Steve Maneri, Tight End: Maneri may not be as well known as Zbikowski, but his addition is important to the Bears. Adding Maneri allowed Phil Emery to cut Matt Spaeth, swapping out a proven blocking tight end for an up-and-coming one with a cheaper salary. He went undrafted in 2010 and was on his third team before finally seeing the field for the Chiefs and racking up a whopping six catches. Expectation: As a blocking tight end, Maneri won't have many stats, but he was a hot (and cheap) commodity this offseason. Essentially takes over Spaeth's role on offense, except he'll actually be a backup to a real tight end.
Excitement Level: Found two pennies
James Anderson, Outside Linebacker: Anderson spent his entire six year career with the Panthers before being cut this offseason. A consistent strong-side starting linebacker, Anderson was cut just two years into a 5 year, $22 million dollar contract, in part because Carolina was tight against the cap due to numerous bad contracts (hello, DeAngelo Williams!). Has averaged over fifty tackles and nine starts a season since coming into the league as a third-round pick. Expectation: Takes over for Nick Roach on the strong side, and should be at least a slight upgrade there. Unlike Roach, does not have experience at middle linebacker.
Excitement Level: Find unattended Easter egg basket with Reese's peanut butter eggs.
D.J. Williams, Middle Linebacker: Williams is the definition of unrealized potential. He was a first-round selection for the Broncos, and flashed excellent ability as both an inside and outside linebacker despite never making a Pro Bowl. The biggest knock against Williams are his off the field issues (suspended nine games in 2012 for DUI and a failed drug test). Expectation: If he's on the field (not injured or suspended) I think Williams will be a great replacement for Brian Urlacher. He knows he needs to prove that he's matured and still productive on the field, and I think he really brings it this season.
Excitement Level: Giordano's for dinner!
Matt Slauson, Guard: Slauson was the less heralded of the New York Jets' starting guards last season, but is a great pickup for the Bears. With the departures of Chilo Rachal, Chris Spencer, and Lance Louis, Slauson starting is a foregone conclusion, but on which side of Roberto Garza may not be determined until preseason. Expectation: Slauson is the best interior lineman for the Bears this season, even if we get lucky and draft Jonathan Cooper. I think he'll be great and get re-signed after the 2013 season to a nice deal.
Excitement Level: A warm, sunny day with no work
And, if you're wondering, my excitement level upon hearing about the Bennett/Bushrod signings: Rage Against the Machine reunion.