It has been a busy offseason so far for general manager Ryan Pace and the Chicago Bears. They were very aggressive in free agency by adding four new starters and upgrading their special teams. They've re-signed 13 Bears from the 2015 team, they traded away an unhappy camper and they've weighed the playing time / financial impact of five other veterans and decided to part ways.
The Bears currently have 67 players under contract, with an offseason maximum of 90 players allowed on the roster. The Bears tried to get in on a couple restricted free agents, so it's safe to say they aren't done investigating free agency. As of right now the Bears have $24,890,288 in available cap space, that's 5th most among all teams. The Bears will spend just under $8 million on their rookies, so that leaves some wiggle if the Bears want to get something else done.
With more impact free agents coming than going, I think it's safe to say the Bears will be shut out of the compensatory draft picks again next offseason.
This season the Bears have nine draft picks, which would push their theoretical offseason roster up to 76, which leaves 14 spots open for a handful of veterans and some undrafted free agents.
Sam has compiled a list of rookie prospects that the Bears have met with, which you can find right here, and I'm sure you guys have been checking out Ken's Bears' Dens for all the latest news.
The Bears are one of many teams that have an official visit lined up with talented Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche. He has first round talent, but some teams may move him down their boards based on character flags.
The Bears will host their local pro day on April 14th and according to the NFL Draft Bible both Air Force edge rusher Alex Hansen (6'3", 260) and Indiana State safety Mark Sewall (6', 201) were invited. Hansen played his high school ball at Oak Forest and Sewall played at Lyons Township.
On Wednesday the Bears are scheduled to meet with free agent safety and kick returner Omar Bolden who played for Bears head coach John Fox from 2012-2014 with the Denver Broncos. The 27 year old Bolden has played sporadically on defense, but he has played over 1,000 snaps on special teams in his career. He has 44 career kick returns (24.7 average) and last year for the first time he was used as a punt returner. He had 5 punt returns for 123 yards and a TD in the regular season and a 42 yard punt return in the playoffs. The Bears are considered the front runner for his services. EDIT (3/30/16) The meeting will now take place on Thursday.
Free agent tight end Jared Cook, whom the Bears were reported to have interest in, is signing with the Green Bay Packers. In case you missed, the New Orleans Saints matched the Bears offer sheet to restricted free agent tight end Josh Hill (WCG LINK). Take a look at the contract Hill was offered.
#Saints contract for RFA TE Josh Hill: 3 years, $7.1M with $3.25M guaranteed, source said. Max is $8.15M with incentives. Big raise for him— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 28, 2016
The Carolina Panthers have signed one of the better remaining corners left on the market, Brandon Boykin, to a 1 year deal. The Bears were rumored to be in on a few corners earlier in free agency.
Denver running back Ronnie Hillman is still available. With the Bears' interest in the position, they may want to explore adding the 24 year old with a career 4.1 yards per carry average. If the Bears are interested in Hillman, they'll have some competition as the Packers are currently thinking about Hillman as well.
There are still a number of free agent centers out there including Will Montgomery and Stefen Wisniewski.
EDIT (3/30/16): The Bears met with center Manny Ramirez yesterday. He has a history with John Fox from their days in Denver.
EDIT (3/30/16): Bears signed Ramirez to a 1 year deal.
Safety Reggie Nelson is 32, but he did just have 8 interceptions last year for the Bengals. Perhaps the Bears swap veteran safeties if they cut ties with Antrel Rolle.
In case you missed any of the moves the Bears have made so far, here they all are along with contract details.
Inside Linebacker Danny Trevathan - 4 years / $24.5M / $12M guaranteed - (WCG LINK)
Inside Linebacker Jerrell Freeman - 3 years / $12M / $6M guaranteed - (WCG LINK)
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said that the Bears will determine which new ILB plays the Mike and Jack once they get on the field, but the odds are that Trevathan will line up at Jack with Freeman at the Mike. Also it's a plus that both new ILBs have experience calling plays in the huddle.
Right Tackle Bobby Massie - 3 years / $18M / $6.5M guaranteed - Massie's addition moved Kyle Long back to right guard. (WCG LINK)
Defensive End Akiem Hicks - 2 years / $10M / $5.5M guaranteed - (WCG LINK)
Long Snapper Aaron Brewer - 1 year / terms undisclosed - (WCG LINK)
Center/Guard Manny Ramirez - 1 year / terms undisclosed - A good veteran depth signing that will push to start at center. (WCG LINK)
Guard/Center Ted Larsen - 1 year / terms undisclosed - More veteran interior depth.
Safety/Special Teamer Omar Bolden - 1 year / $760,000 - He can return punts and kicks and cover them too. (WCG LINK)
Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffery - 1 year / $14,599,000 all guaranteed - All the latest reports have the Bears and Jeffery still working on a long term deal. (WCG LINK)
Cornerback Tracy Porter - 3 years / $12M / $4.25M guaranteed - (WCG LINK)
Offensive Lineman Nick Becton - 1 year / $675,000 - (WCG LINK)
Running Back Jacquizz Rodgers - 1 year / $760,000 - (WCG LINK)
Cornerback Sherrick McManis - 2 years / $2.85M / $750,000 guaranteed - (WCG LINK)
Defensive Lineman Mitch Unrein - 2 years / $2.26M / $500,000 guaranteed - (WCG LINK)
Wide Receiver Marc Mariani - 1 year / $840,000 - (WCG LINK)
Tight End Zach Miller - 2 years / $5.5M / $3M guaranteed - (WCG LINK)
Tight End Rob Housler - 1 year / $760,000 - (WCG LINK)
Wide Receiver Josh Bellamy - 1 year / $760,000 - (WCG LINK)
Wide Receiver / Kick Returner Deonte Thompson - 1 year / $840,000 / $80,000 guarantee - (WCG LINK)
Safety Chris Prosinski - 1 year / terms undisclosed - (WCG LINK)
Outside Linebacker Sam Acho - terms undisclosed - Acho was just re-signed today (WCG LINK)
Running Back Matt Forte, New York Jets - 3 years / $12M / $9M guaranteed
Defensive End Jarvis Jenkins, New York Jets - 3 years / $6M
Offensive Tackle Jermon Bushrod, Miami Dolphins - 1 year / $1.5M / $985,000 guaranteed
Inside Linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, Atlanta Falcons - 1 year / $675,000
Linebacker Shea McClellin, New England Patriots - 3 years / $9.050M / $3.5M guaranteed - (WCG LINK)
Tight End Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots - trade - (WCG LINK)