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Bears have been quietly building depth

Since week 17 of the 2013 NFL season Bears general manager Phil Emery has been signing players with expiring deals to new paper. These moves, save a few, have been far from glamorous but they are the moves that build a roster. There is still much work to be done with free agency set to begin a week from tomorrow.

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On December 27 of last year, just two days before the ill-fated week 17 showdown with the Green Bay Packers, the Bears announced that new deals had been reached with kicker Robbie Gould and fullback Tony Fiammetta, unofficially kicking off the 2014 offseason.

Five days later and only two days after the 2013 season ended the Bears announced three much high-profile deals for quarterback Jay Cutler, cornerback Tim Jennings and offensive guard Matt Slauson.

Since then there have been announcements of reserve/future deals and street free agents like Austen Lane and Derrick Martin and then in the last week there have been deals for players like Dante Rosario, Kelvin Hayden and Roberto Garza.

These mostly one-year deals aren't spectacular or headline-grabbing like the Cutler, Jennings or Slauson deals but they are solidifying the foundation for the 2014 Bears team, and putting in place a solid depth base for which free agency and the draft can build up from.

Phrases like "free agency starts at home" or "reward your own first" are what these moves are all about. It takes 53 players to make a roster and, before a team goes out and gives a mega-bucks deal to the hottest free agent, they need to make sure that there is quality depth around those superstars in order to maximize the signings and draftees.

With eight days to go before the opening of free agency the Bears still have several free agents-to-be that they could re-sign. Players like Josh McCown, Jeremiah Ratliff, Corey Wootton, Henry Melton, Zack Bowman and Nate Collins, among others.

The Bears have until Saturday to negotiate with these players, at which point then all teams can begin negotiating with players that will be free agents Tuesday. Saturday is when the rumors will start, visits will begin to be lined up and whispers of "deals in principle."

It will be in the Bears' best interest to get deals done this week with players that feel they need to have for strong depth or to fill out the roster.

Take a look at the list of impending free agents here from Who do you think should be priority number one to be re-signed?

Personally I think they need to try to get something done with Collins, Melton and/or Ratliff first. It's well-known that Stephen Paea is the only defensive tackle currently under contract, and getting one of the three mentioned above would give the Bears a nice veteran presence to go with a potential draft pick. I'd also like to see a deal get done with Bowman to get one more corner in the fold, since Tillman may not return.

Which players do you want to see back in the fold before free agency opens?