Assuming that a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, I will look ahead to this year's 2011 free agency class. Free agency is not a good way to build a team, but if you feel like you are close to winning a championship, a couple significant moves can put you over the top. For the Bears, with them being so close to having a pretty good offense to go along with a stingy defense, makes this year's and next year's off-season really important for Jerry Angelo. Why, you may ask?
You have your franchise QB in Cutler, a great offensive weapon in RB Matt Forte, followed by pretty good young weapons in the receiving game in Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Greg Olsen, and Kellen Davis (if they ever decide to start u sing him more in the receiving game). I look at this offense at the moment as 3/5 done, with the only improvements needed on this side is on the offensive line and a #1 receiver. The offensive line will probably be a two year rebuilding process, but they can make a couple key moves in the draft and free agency that can significantly improve the line for next season. The Defense is in a win now mode, but could use a couple pieces that would make it even better.
In order of greatest to least need, I will list players at that position the Bears should take a look at. The list of free agents was taken from Walterfootball.com.
Logan Mankins, G, Patriots- The best offensive guard in the league, Mankins would ideally be a great signing for a team that doesn't have that many needs on the offensive line. He is set to be the highest paid offensive lineman in the league, and it would be wise for the Bears to get a slightly cheaper option and use the money left over for other needs.
Richie Incognito, G, Dolphins- This is what I meant by a cheaper option. Incognito is the prototypical big offensive lineman that Tice covets. He's a very good run blocker and decent in pass protection, and I would like to see Jerry acquire Incognito.
Jared Gaither, T, Ravens- This would be more of a high risk/high reward signing. Gaither can be a solid blind side protector for Cutler and would allow Martz to run some seven step drop stuff. The problem is that he missed all of this season with a back injury and that's one injury you don't want from your LT.
Davin Joseph, G, Buccaneers- Suffered a seasoning ending foot injury, but he's another lineman that fits Tice's prototype.
Sidney Rice, Vikings- At 25 years old, Rice is still young with room to grow. He shouldn't command that much considering he has only had one good season.
Braylon Edwards, Jets- It's more and more likely that Edwards' days in a Jets uniform are numbered. With many more important players to re-sign, It will come down to Santonio Holmes or Edwards.
James Jones, Packers- Packers are in the same situation as the Jets, where it would probably come down to Jones or Donald Driver. If Jones is available, the Bears should strongly pursue the talented receiver.
Legedu Naanee, Chargers- Naanee is a very talented receiver with pretty good size and speed. If the Chargers retain both Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd he might be available.
Johnathan Joseph, Bengals- Long shot possibility, but didn't we say that last year about Julius Peppers? Joseph is an elite corner who would give Marinelli much flexibility in play calling having two corners that can play man.
Richard Marshall, Panthers- Marshall is a physical corner that might fit the Tampa-2 scheme. He also won't be an expensive signing.
Eric Wright, Browns- Talented young corner who might benefit from a change of scenery and scheme.
Brandon Mebane, Seahawks- Seahawks might retain him, but if he decides to test free agency he should be high on Jerry's wish list.