The Bears weren't as active in the initial stages of free agency as they have been in recent years. Instead of getting out and targeting the big fish and bringing in Brinks trucks worth of guaranteed money, they shrewdly went out and targeted players they knew fit their needs without overspending.
The highest price additions they made were OLB/DE Pernell McPhee and WR Eddie Royal. McPhee received the 10th biggest contract in free agency, according to total dollars, but he is an ascending player coming out of his first contract. He received a lot of money but his cap hits aren't particularly huge. If he is the player he is billed to be in the new 3-4 defense, it will be considered money well spent.
Royal is much the same on the offensive side. Royal got the fifth biggest deal for free agent WRs and his guarantee is the same as Andre Johnson's, but Royal is five years younger than the Colts' new wide out.
The Bears gave out two big deals, but they don't have the mega bucks and guarantees that some of the deals they've given out in recent years to players such as Julius Peppers, Jay Cutler or Jared Allen. Ideally these players will work out and be worth the money the team spent, but if for some reason they don't they won't put the Bears into the precarious position of salary cap hell.
The rest of the deals the Bears have handed out have been of the one-year prove-it deals that all general managers love to hand out to hungry veterans. Whether it's a player who expected big bucks that never showed up (Mason Foster) or a guy who has off-field issues and needs to take a low-risk deal to show teams he can stay out of trouble (Ray McDonald) or even just a nearly washed-up veteran trying to prove he's still got it (think Jeremiah Ratliff in 2013).
GMs love these deals because there is generally such little guaranteed money that if it doesn't work the player doesn't cost anything to cut the player, and if he plays well the player can be in line for big raise - but not necessarily at the expense of the GM's own team. The team should get a fully motivated player who wants to prove they can do whatever it is that is perceived they cannot.
In addition to Royal and McPhee the Bears also brought in Antrel Rolle on a three-year deal and then one-year deals for McDonald, Foster, Vladimir Ducasse, Thomas Gafford and Jarvis Jenkins.
Which one of these players is going to have the biggest impact for the 2015 Bears?
Most of the help will go to the defense, where it is much-needed. It's easy to look at the contracts and the fanfare surrounding the signings and say, well, McPhee is going to have the biggest impact because he is so versatile and fits so many of the holes on Vic Fangio's D. While that is true and while I expect him to take on a huge role, he will be one of many rushers the Bears have with Willie Young, Allen and Lamarr Houston, among others such as Christian Jones.
McPhee is going to be a big part of the D, but he will be in a rotation and, keep in mind, he's never been a full-time starter in a defense before.
On the offensive side Royal will also be expected to make a big impact. Our own commenter ECD wrote up a nice fanpost last week detailing how Royal will fit into the offense and what he will be asked to do for coordinator Adam Gase. ECD nicely points out that Royal fits in the role played by Emmanuel Sanders last season in Gase's Denver offense. If Royal is able to do that Bears fans will be quickly forget all the hype around the Bears taking a WR at No. 7. If Royal can come close to the 101 rec/1,404 yds/9 TDs Sanders had then his impact will be immense.
However, Royal has never cracked 1,000 yards, and his best season came way back in 2008 when he had 91/980/5 for the Broncos.
Then there is Antrel Rolle. Rolle is my pick for having the biggest impact on the Bears in 2015. Rolle might be on the wrong side of 30 but he has been a durable player who brings instant credibility to the Bears' secondary, and is the type of player they have been sorely lacking in the deep middle of the field for years.
Rolle is a solid cover man (26 career INTs) but is no slouch against the run either (more than 60 tackles in eight of his 10 seasons). Perhaps his biggest addition will be in the leadership department, an area in which the team's locker room suffered mightily in 2014; Rolle will bring stability and leadership to a unit that is getting younger. As a veteran he should be able to help make sure everyone is lined up and in their right spots too.
Which free agent addition do you think will make the biggest impact this fall?