Last season we saw how important it is to have depth at every position. A few key injuries was all it took to turn what looked like a promising season into a disappointing one for the Bears. New general manager Phil Emery has been busy signing numerous players during this year's free agency period, and it's time to take a look at those signings and what the added depth means for Chicago.
The Bears demonstrated last year how important it is to have a good backup quarterback. I think a lot of people thought that Caleb Hanie would do a lot better than he did when he stepped in for an injured Jay Cutler. But as we all know, things didn't work out that way. Hanie was given ample opportunity to get the job done, but he pretty much failed. Hanie has since been released and now looks to backup Peyton Manning in Denver.
So, we have welcomed former Raiders QB Jason Campbell into the Bears family. An experienced player with seven years in the league, Campbell also has good athletic ability and decent speed. He is an upgrade over Hanie and should be effective as a backup if called upon to step up to the plate.
After that we have Nathan Enderle and Josh McCown still on the books, and if we have to look to either of those guys, we could be in trouble.
Perhaps one of this year's most controversial signings (at least as far as Matt Forte is concerned), was Michael Bush. Another former Oakland Raider, some saw this deal as a bit of a slap in the face of Forte. The two sides have still not come to a long term agreement, and Forte's mini meltdown on Twitter pointed to him feeling slighted by Bush's arrival.
I think that Bush can do good things in Chicago. He is a big strong runner with quick feet, and has a good nose for the end zone. He should be a good compliment to Forte and might find himself used in short yardage situations, where Forte has struggled at times. If it all works out, the Bears could have a pretty potent one-two punch at running back.
Again, a deal that made a lot of noise around the league was the acquisition of Brandon Marshall. Finally, Jay Cutler has his man. The boys are back together in the windy city, and at last the Bears have a player they can legitimately call a number one receiver. Marshall is a well sized receiver, able to create mismatches and using a combination of speed, strength and agility. He is not afraid to go across the middle to make the tough catches and should be considered one of the NFL's best wideouts.
With Johnny Knox looking doubtful for a return to football this season, the Bears would have struggled at the wide receiver position. But now with Marshall on board, and Earl Bennett looking to have a strong season, the Bears should be in a much better position. And don't forget, this analysis is all before the draft. Whether it's early on or not, I still expect the Bears to pick up a receiver as they look to strengthen the ranks.
The Bears also added Eric Weems and Devin Thomas to the team as well, and although they have just released Max Komar, it is a position that seems pretty well stacked . It will be interesting to see how many receivers make the final cut.
Although Lovie Smith has suggested he is happy with the offensive line he has, the Bears decided to sign former San Fransisco 49er Chilo Rachal. Right guard Rachal could find himself in the mix for a starting job by the time the season rolls around. He is a decent run blocker and he looks to at least figure in the rotation.
I still look for the Bears to add to another lineman to the team. There are some good players in this year's draft; the question being which pick will the Bears use to get one.
Yesterday the Bears agreed to terms with former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Geno Hayes. Behind Urlacher and Briggs, the Bears don't have much in the way of depth, although Nick Roach has been more than useful.
Hayes is only 24 years old, and although the deal is for just one year, he can hopefully develop into a decent linebacker who might fill the gap when Urlacher and Briggs call it a day.
Again, there are several linebackers on the books at Chicago, but none that really stand out. Perhaps the draft will be a place where the Bears look to add some more serious depth.
The Bears brought in two players during free agency to at least provide some competition. Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite both signed one year deals. Hayden is the more experienced of the two and is a good tackler, with a good burst of speed. Four year pro Wilhite is good at both pass and run defense, although may be a little inconsistent when in pass coverage.
I like the depth the Bears have at this position. I do wish they could have retained the services of Corey Graham, but he has moved on to pastures new in an understandable effort to gain more playing time. But with players like Charles Tillman still looking good, and others such as D.J Moore, Tim Jennings, Chris Conte and Major Wright, the Bears should have a secondary able to deal with the best of the league's offenses.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that Chicago have been one of, if not the busiest teams during this year's free agency period. It's been an exciting ride seeing the Bears add some much needed depth to several positions. And once again, this is all before the NFL draft in a week's time, where Chicago can seek to improve further on a team that should be one of the contenders this season.