On March 11th, at 3:00pm Central time, NFL Free Agency will officially begin. With the NFL Draft taking place nearly two months later, on May 8th, teams will be able to plug some holes and reconfigure their draft boards.
Our parent site, SB Nation has predicted one perfect free agent target for each NFL team. They have the Chicago Bears matched up with Cleveland Browns free agent strong safety T.J. Ward, and I agree that this would be a perfect pairing.
But the money could be tricky.
Here's their take on Ward to the Bears.
The Bears had the worst safety play in the league last season. Chris Conte and Major Wright were Nos. 1 and 2 in missed tackles at the position, according to Pro Football Focus. On the flip side, Ward was second in tackles among all safeties. For a team that gave up nearly 30 points per game last season, the Bears need a reliable last line of defense.
The Bears did have horrendous safety play last year, but a lot of that was brought on by the garbage in front of them. A safety upgrade is definitely needed, but they also need to address the front seven.
Signing Ward would allow the Bears to focus on the defensive line in the draft, but there is the money issue.
I'm guessing that he will end up being one of the higher paid safeties in the NFL, there's even speculation that the Browns could franchise tag him for the 2014 season. Ward is on record saying he'd be open to a return to Cleveland, so he may not fight the tag.
Ward will probably get an annual salary in the neighborhood of $8 million, so the Bears would have to get creative with a few other contracts to sign him.
Thanks to rampant salary cap issues, Dallas will almost assuredly have to let defensive tackle Jason Hatcher walk in free agency. Henry Melton, an undersized but effective interior pass-rusher, could provide the perfect fit. He is coming off an ACL tear and a recent arrest, but those issues, while concerning, will also drive down his price tag for the cap-strapped Cowboys.
I think if Melton's price tag is down enough, the Bears may want him back. Their run defense wasn't nearly as bad with Melton in the lineup, and I could see the Bears paying just enough to keep him in Chicago. Then again, there may be some ill feelings after the Bears tagged him last off season rather than give him the long term deal he desired.
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, whom many Bears fans would like to see join his brother Martellus on the Bears, is predicted to go back to Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers let Bennett walk out of Tampa last season, and then watched as he piled up 8.5 sacks with the Seahawks. Lovie Smith's first priority will be strengthening the defense, and he needs a reliable edge rusher to do so. Bennett and the Bucs could be set for a reunion.
If my tea reading is up to par, I think Michael Bennett will go play for whichever team offers the most cash.
What are your thoughts on this?
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