With the recent launch of O.J. Atogwe into the real free agency waters the question has been asked should the Bears still go after him? This is an extremely valid question, but isn't really one that lends itself to a yes or no answer. We've brought Chris Harris back home where he belongs, we picked up Major Wright in the draft, and we apparently have decided to attempt to de-DMS Daniel Manning by keeping him at the safety position. This takes an already extremely crowded position that has a lot of younger guys, and crowds it even further. With that in mind, there is no question that Atogwe is a fantastic player and would be an upgrade over Wright or Manning once on the field at full strength, but is he worth what we'd have to give up?
This seems to be the question that is asked more often than any other, is X better than Y if we have to give up Z. Again, there isn't anything wrong with that question, but the better question in my mind is when is enough actually enough in free agency and the draft? When do you stop going back to that buffet table that is the free agent market? When do you stop stockpiling lower round picks and make grabs for guys that you really want by trading up, or vice versa? When do you decide to stand pat on what you have and let it ride?
To say the Bears organization has acted out of character the last two years would be the understatement of the century. The massive trade we made last off season with the Denver Broncos to bring in Jay Cutler, and ultimately draft Johnny Knox will likely go down as one of the better ones in franchise history if both guys continue to improve. However, we moved two first round picks, picks generally coveted like gold by our front office, as well as the man known as Neckbeard. This trade was one of the few blockbusters last year, and we were relatively quiet afterwards as a team. It was very much an example of blowing all your powder in one shot, and letting the bodies fall as they may.
This trade is one that I'll firmly stand behind as a Chicago Bears fan, and a fan of football. This kind of marquee deal for a young pro bowl QB doesn't happen that often, and was really the only way we were going to see one throw on a Bears uniform and hopefully change the culture a bit. Johnny Knox was a happy surprise to come out of the depths of that draft with Denver's pick rising like a phoenix from the ashes to torch opposing defenses. Couldn't be happier.
What's that? There was more activity from the Bears that year? Oh, I guess my subconscious mind must have scarred over the horror that was the pick up of Orlando Pace to be our starting LT last year. Ah, it's starting to come back to me. I never remembered there being a turnstile in the middle of Soldier Field. It must have all been a dream, or perhaps a nightmare. At any rate, this terrible misstep was something that was worth the risk, we just should have cut our losses much before we actually did. It was fairly obvious after around three games that Pace didn't have the stuff anymore, yet we continued to watch the slow-motion car crash week after week after week. That's life I suppose, and we have to move past it so let us take a look at this off-season instead.
What difference a few months can make to a team. We released Alex Brown, and didn't re-sign Wale. We picked up one of the best blocking TE in the league, and we stole one of the best back up backs in the league away from our rival Vikings. Oh, and we signed some guy James Salt? No. That wasn't it. It was something like that though...Julius Peppers maybe? I don't really know the guy, but the word on the street is that he eats up tackles like Pac-Man on a ghost after a power pill binge. This guy is the real deal, and I'm firmly in the camp that believes his motivational concerns were mostly unfounded, and the ones that were there were specifically related to the appreciation he felt from the Panthers organization. Suffice to say, Peppers was the only show in that town for years and years and he never really received the recognition that kind of play deserves. It'd be like the Bears not appreciating Urlacher when he's been the face of the franchise through many a dark year.
It doesn't stop there though folks, just when you thought the ride was over and you needed to put your tray tables in the fully upright and locked position Chris Harris apparently borrowed one of Peppers leftover plane tickets and followed him out of Carolina. Chris Harris back home not only to the team he belongs with, but at a position of need for the team. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I not only didn't see this trade coming in the slightest, but it quite possibly put a bigger grin on my face than the Peppers deal. The only bittersweet moment of the deal was being forced to wish Kevin Payne the best of luck with the Rams.
So there are our last two off-seasons in a small nutshell in regards to the FA market. Now back to the question or questions at hand. When is enough actually enough, and should we pick up Atogwe to be our new FS?
Building a team isn't as simple as just getting the best guys, paying them the most money, and enjoying the Super Bowls. If it were, the Redskins would be the Yankees of football. There is a lot to be said for the interplay between the players, how they fit not only in the scheme, but with the other players on the team. You've got to address needs in the best way you can, but any time you do so you've to ask if it's going to make the team better in the short term and the long run.
Making a play for Atogwe for 7mil a year is undoubtedly out of the question at this point for the Bears, and apparently just as out of the question for all the other teams looking for a FS. I stand by my previous assertion that he's worth it as a player, but the market ultimately dictates your worth and the market for a FS has dried up in large part. So we're not looking at seven million any more, but what are we looking at? Looking at other players deals in a better climate we're likely looking at a four year deal, coming in around 5 to 6 million a year in total. At that point, Atogwe again becomes interesting to contemplate signing even coming off of a bit of injury. He'd be better than Wright or Manning would be at FS, and Chris Harris could easily slide back to SS with no problems. Five million a year isn't all that much to pay for a guy of Atogwe's caliber either, considering his good coverage and knack for turnovers fit the Bears Cover 2 defense perfectly.
Despite how good I think the fit would be and despite the fact I think Atogwe at five million a year is a steal, I still have to come down on the side of not being the slightest bit upset if the Bears don't make a play for him at this point. We've quite literally did more than enough this year to not only address the problems we had, but to strengthen some of the strengths we have. The only glaring need that is to find some stability on the line, but that with luck will resolve itself.
You can only go to the free agency well so many times, uncapped season or not, and we've went to it more than enough over the past two years. I love Atogwe as a player, but I really like a lot of the guys we already have. If we had not pulled off the deal to bring Harris back then I'd be pushing extremely hard to see Atogwe in blue and orange, but since we did I think we have to take the safeties we have and roll with it and see what happens. If anyone can lead by example for our younger guys like Afalava it's Harris, so we can only hope that by the time Harris is ready to hang up the cleats we've got some rising stars to take his place.
We could have done without Pace last year, and we can do without Atogwe this year. What do you think? Have the Bears done enough this season in free agency, or should they finish with one final splash?