The Bears just didn't dive into the free agent pool, they pulled off the Mother of all dives with the near impossible Triple Lindy. But like most fans, I want to know, what's next? We are a short attention span society, and on the same day the Bears held the presser announcing what was the biggest free agent haul in the history of the franchise, Chicago sports radio was fielding calls asking about other upgrades they need to make. The ink wasn't even dry on the three contracts doled out to Brandon Manumaleuna, Julius Peppers, and Chester Taylor before I'm hearing fans worried about the free safety position, or the offensive line, or finding a #1 receiver.
I guess the glass half empty thinking is better than the knuckleheads already making their travel arrangements to Dallas, Texas for Super Bowl XLV. But what are the next logical steps for Chicago? There are still options in free agency, there are still options via trade, and there is still the NFL Draft coming up next month.
Sklz711 already broke down the free safety possibilities, and I agree, O.J. Atogwe makes the most sense. And PolishSausage.Ditka.Bears. (congrats on the front page bump btw) already touched on The Poison Pill Strategy the Bears should use to make an offer for Atogwe. But maybe the Bears are thinking the improved pass rush will be enough to offset any secondary concerns. Rumors have been floating since last week about the Bears actively pursuing a FS, but so far nothing. If they don't make a splash should we assume they are ready to usher in the Craig Steltz era at FS or will FS be their #1 priority in the draft?
As far as free agency goes, I think it's Atogwe or nothing. If they can't pull off a deal for him, I think free safety then has to be their top target in the draft. This is a deep draft at the safety position, and that bodes well for Chicago. They could find a player that is capable of starting at FS from day one with their 3rd round pick.
Sticking with the draft, I think it's fair to say that the Bears won't be targeting any running backs, tight ends, or defensive ends come April, (well, that 3rd one JA still may wind up targeting). I'd like to see the Bears target offensive line with that 3rd round pick. The unrestricted free agent offensive line men aren't very exciting, and finding a quality guard or right tackle is a possibility in the 3rd round.
A popular debate here on WCG is the future of Greg Olsen. Should they or shouldn't they trade him? Is he or isn't he a fit in the Mike Martz offense? The only non-debatable aspect to the discussion is that there isvalue around the league for Olsen. In fact he may be the only player on the roster where trading him makes sense. I'm still not sure if Angelo would pull the trigger on a deal. I'd be ok either way as long as they can at least pick up a high 2nd rounder. In regards to the perceived lack of balls being thrown the tight ends way in the offense, I loved what Manumaleuna had to say about that; from chicagobears.com:
"When I was in St. Louis, you have to understand the people that were outside of me," Manumaleuna said. "So when people say I was being ignored, it wasn't really being ignored. It was more throwing to two Pro Bowl receivers and a Pro Bowl running back coming out of the backfield. It wasn't a lack of using the tight ends but more so using your Hall of Fame players."
Good point. Greg Olsen may be the best receiving threat in Chicago, so why wouldn't Martz find a way to get him involved. When looking over the 2000 St. Louis Rams playbook, I came across plenty of times the tight end is running a route. I think the Bears will still utilize plenty of double TE sets, only with Manumaleuna lining up off the line so he can motion and play more of the H-Back role. If anyone is wary of losing playing time, it should be fullback Jason McKie. I regards to a trade, I think the Bears stand pat unless a team really blows them away with an offer, and a chance to select a player they deem "special".
The plan of attack I'd like to see Jerry Angelo take is; Sign Atogwe, then draft offensive line, either in the 3rd round or by trading Greg Olsen to move up for a 1st round talent like Mike Iupati or Maurkice Pouncey.
A few other thoughts I have...
With Anquan Boldin getting moved and Brandon Marshall looking like an unlikely option, I think the Bears ride with the group of receivers they have. Drafting a project guy late wouldn't surprise me.
If Pisa Tinoisamoa wants to resign, and the Bears want to resign him, why hasn't he officially resigned? He's still listed on the roster after all, according to their website.
Nathan Vasher is still a Bear why? He's still due a total of $10.1 million over the next three years ($2.95 million in 2010), and all that for a corner that won't start, that can't play safety, can't play nickle, and won't be on special teams?
Do you think the Bears would even bother to match any of the offers they may get on their restricted free agents? I can see them happy to pick up a few draft picks.
If Danieal Manning is really gonna get a crack at strong safety, then who'll play nickle?