5 Free Agents The Chicago Bears Should Target This Offseason

By Tom Pollin
February 14, 2013 12:54 am
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Prior to free agency and the 2012 NFL Draft, head coach Lovie Smith and first year offensive coordinator Mike Tice staked their jobs on being confident in the offensive line they had in place and that tight end Kellen Davis had the ability to be one of the top tight ends in the NFL. A season later, new head coach Marc Trestman is ready to begin building an NFL quality offense but will need, among other things, an offensive line that can block and a tight end who can catch.

The Bears only have five picks in the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft after trading their third round pick for Brandon Marshall and their seventh round pick for defensive tackle Brian Price (released in training camp last summer). To make the improvements the team needs to compete in 2013 they'll have to sign talent from the free agent market.

The Bears have salary cap space to make a major move along with a couple of other signings to add depth. Here are the Bears' best options at their positions of needs.

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21 months ago
Not trying to sound like a trolling jag, but to be real this has to be one of the worse must have FA lists I've seen this year. Bushrod graded out worse than Webb, and has a worse skill set and is older not to mention more expensive. Dustin Keller is an injury prone worse blocking version of Kellen Davis. I believe Urlacher has reached that point. I'd urge him to retire with a shred of dignity. Jason Campbell? Really? How'd that work out last year? With the cap what it is, 21 free agents of their own, the last thing Im spending money on is a back up QB who may never play. I like the idea of developing Blanchard, &/or drafting or signing a young UDFA or inexpensive UFA or practice squader somewhere, and maybe resigning McCown to a vet minimum deal better. Just to have a mentor to the younger guys, and a vet to help jay out on the sidelines during games. He is a coach after all too. I would not put CB on the list over WAY bigger pressing needs. Besides I'd rather re-sign Moore than Cox. I love the potential of Isaiah Frey too, and they have Sharron McMannis coming back and just signed a Burner of a CB who's only 25. Sorry Tom, but I'm underwhelmed with your list yet alone call it a must have list.
21 months ago

I’ve always said, strive to be the very best or the very worst, mediocrity is never acceptable. Thank you for your judgment that I’ve achieved memorability. Before I respond I do want to say that I respect your opinions, I just don’t agree with them.
The only reason the Bears offensive line isn’t the worst in the NFL is because the Arizona Cardinals are also in the league. I truly wish I knew where the love affair with J’Marcus Webb stems from. Once the offseason begins everyone forgets how bad he really is. As I said, I will take the tackle off one of the best O-lines in football over the tackle on one of the worst. The Bears fail the offseason if J’Marcus Webb is the starter at left tackle in 2013.
Dustin Keller is a quality tight end. Perhaps you didn’t see the stat I brought up about Davis only catching 43 percent of his targets. Last season was the first time in Keller’s 5 year career that he was not available to play all 16 games of the season. The Bears will expect him to pass a physical before signing him. Once he does I’ll take him on my team, you can have Davis and I’ll kick your butt up and down the field.
Do you expect the Bears to be Super Bowl contenders or pretenders in 2013? Campbell started one game in 2012 and the 49ers kicked the Bears’ behinds all over the field in that game. The result would have been no different if Cutler had played, or did you forget Aldon Smith’s five sacks. Do you think Cutler is going to go through 2013 injury free? He hasn’t the past two seasons. Remember Caleb Hanie? Did the Bears make the playoffs with him at quarterback in 2011 after starting the season 7-3? Please do not bring up Josh McCown. You injure your credibility. Blanchard is not an NFL quarterback and never will be. The Bears do not need a veteran mentor at quarterback. The hired one of the best quarterback mentors in football as a head coach. The Bears need a veteran backup in 2013 and Campbell is still the best of what’s out there.
D.J. Moore should not be brought back. McMannis and Frey may become quality corners but the jury is still out. I don’t place cornerback over a number of other needs but Cox will be out there at a good price and has shown the ability to get the football. The Bears should jump.
21 months ago

Everyone's a critic Tom. And I love that they all try to qualify their insults first, as if that makes them better. "I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I think you are a terrible person." Thanks, so glad you didn't mean any disrespect by that.

I, on the other hand, actually agree with your list here. Left tackle is the beginning and the end of the Bears free agent search if they hope to contend next year. Cutler being sacked 38 times in 15 games cannot continue.

Dustin Keller was a spot-on selection as well. The Bears are becoming laughably one dimensional in the passing game. Brandon Marshall had 194 targets last year. Coming in second on the teams was Earl Bennett with just 49. They need a tight end to be able to punish teams up the steam when they want to roll double coverage to Marshall. The man everyone should really be mad at is Mike Martz for having the Bears trade away Greg Olsen because he didn't fit Martz's offensive game plan.

As for the Campbell resigning, who else were you supposed to pick? The free agent list is a who's who from the QB scrap-heap pile. Campbell at least has had success as a starter. The Bears have collapsed in the last two seasons when Cutler got hurt. Without a dependable backup who can win, the Bears open themselves up to the same situation happening next season.

A couple guys you didn't mention are players the Bears need to resign. Henry Melton and Isreal Idonije are both free agents and would be big losses if they sign elsewhere.
21 months ago

It's all good. We're arguing about football. To quote Jim Harbaugh, "Who has it better than us!" Coming from you, I appreciate the support.

I only want three things out of life, world peace, love and understanding between people of all nationalities and races, and anyone but J'Marcus Webb playing left tackle for the Bears in 2013. I thank you for bringing up that stat about targets. I heard about that but didn't think of it when I wrote the article. That can't be allowed next season. Between having a quality tight end and Alshon Jeffery staying healthy and continuing his development, it shouldn't. I can tell you've looked through that free agent quarterback list. It has to be one of the weakest in recent memory. Campbell is the best on the list.

I also thank you for bringing up Melton and Idonije. I agree that the Bears should re-sign both but I believe Melton is the more important of the two. He created a lot of disruption in the middle of the line last year. Idonije can still play but as a first round pick in 2012, Shea McClellin should be starting opposite Julius Peppers next season. One of the problems of the Jerry Angelo era was first and second round picks that not only failed to develop into quality starters, quite a few failed completely. The Bears don't need that trend to continue under Phil Emery. McClellin showed some promise last season. He needs to earn the job as a starter in 2013.
21 months ago

Well if you go by the metrics that football outsiders have where they factor in every possible scenario making all things equal the Bears line ranked 16th over all. Not great, but certainly nothing to sneeze at. Webb actually played well. Not sure what you're basing this on. Maybe just perception, but the worst o-line versus best O-line making the player better take is kinda weak. As a matter of fact I can argue playing on a bad line makes your job that much tougher. Gotta look at tape and make your own evaluations. The all-22 is now 25 bucks on NFL.com as a reminder.

The fact is Webb cut his pressures down in half according to Pro football Focus. That is a very significant improvement. For anyone yet alone for an under developed young LT from a small school. And lets face it throwing him out there to start in a Martz system from year one wouldn't do any OT any favors. But you go ahead and spend foolish money on an older tackle that performed worse. That's not smart business in my world. If kromer made Bushrod a pro-bowler with a lesser skill set imagine what he can do with a physical specimen like Webb.

I also wasn't endorsing Davis. Oh no! I want him to be cut. I merely made a comparison between he and keller. Before last season Davis had very similar metrics to keller. Even a much better TD to targets ratio. I simply want a good TE, and Keller is all potential as Davis was. Bears need sure things. This off season is loaded with TE's in both Free agency, and the draft, and your solution is keller? Questionable.

Also in a year where the Bears need a ton of players including their own free agents to make decisions on you want to pay big money to a back up QB? The "how'd that work out for them" comment went beyond just the 49er game. They pissed away 3.5 Million! If that isn't a lesson learned I don't know what is. Bad choice there. Not a smart business move. I mean you do have the cap to consider. This isn't fantasy football.

My McCown reference wasn't suggesting he be a mentor. It was suggesting he being able to identify things on game day and relay the info to the coaching staff and Jay. Thats where his worth would be. And most importantly he's CHEAP! Blanchard has some talent. A very live arm, and mobility. Bears like him enough to have him back. I suspect that's because he has skills that mirror their starter. He has tools to work with.

And why should D.J. Moore not be brought back? I would argue that his big plays to snap % is as high as any nickle/dime package DB in the league. The fact he was benched because Lovie didn't like him putting Bear business on blast doesn't make him a bad player. You say you value Cox's ability for turnovers well put him up against Moore. Only 2 more in the same number of games. D.J. has more TD's. Two to Cox's zero though. The price is also right with Moore. I'd also be willing to bet he's not nearly as good a blitzer as Moore who when you turn on his tape is probably the Bears best blitzer. Cox was also a starter which gives him way more snaps than Moore. Also DJ Moore made $554,188 last season in his last season on his contract. Cox $645,750. So you can also argue Bears got more bang for their buck. No reason to think that wont continue. Although I'd give you Cox is probably the most logical of your choices here, but the fact they already have a guy like him makes him far from a must sign. Thats probably the biggest problem I have with your piece. The fact this is declared must signs.
21 months ago

I see that the time of civil discourse is over. That’s fine with me. I thank you for coming back to my article with more comments. It gives me another chance to hammer you and reinforce my arguments. I’ll write my responses real slow so you can be sure to understand them.

Starting with left tackle play, one caveat that Football Outsiders places on their offensive line rankings is, “However, it is important to understand that these ratings only somewhat separate the offensive line from the running backs. A team with a very good running back will appear higher no matter how bad their line, and a team with a great line with appear lower if the running back is terrible.” The Bears were middle of the pack in Yards per Carry average but in the top ten in attempts and cumulative yards. (Reading is easy, comprehension is hard).

You look at a statistic saying that Webb cut his pressures in half in 2012 but miss the reason why. Matt Forte’s rushing attempts per game were slightly down over 2011 but his fewer targets in the passing game last season were of greater significance. Forte was kept in the backfield more in 2012 to give Cutler an added level of protection, especially after Webb was manhandled by Clay Matthews of the Packers in Week 2.

I don’t care what school Webb is from or whose offense he is playing in. He’s paid to block his assignment! This is the NFL! That he needs constant help affects how many pressures a lineman allows but takes away a main weapon on offense.

In quantifiable stats; Webb has been flagged for more penalties in three seasons for more yards lost than Bushrod has in four seasons as a starter. Webb has allowed 33.5 sacks through his position in three seasons, 12.5 more than Bushrod, and Drew Brees dropped back to pass an average of 12 times more per game than Jay Cutler did in 2012.

Kromer was able to turn Bushrod into a Pro-Bowler? Sounds like Bushrod should be in Chicago since Kromer is here now. I’ll take Kromer’s Pro-Bowl left tackle over one who hasn’t improved his fundamentals at the position since day one.

Keller is all potential the way that Davis was? From where do you get that statement? The only person who ever thought Davis had potential was Lovie Smith and you see how far that got him. Actually, Smith also thought that J’Marcus Webb had potential. Do I sense a pattern here?

Keller has played in a terrible offense with awful quarterbacks with the Jets. He has produced when he’s had the opportunity. Yes the Bears can draft a tight end but, considering they have only five picks this year, why do that when they can sign a proven NFL tight end and draft for other needs, especially other positions within the offensive line.

About Matt Blanchard, the quarterback the Bears signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (a hotbed of quarterback talent). He’s there to run the scout team and hold a clipboard on Sunday. Yes, the Bears liked him well enough to sign him…to the practice squad…where he could be signed by any team in the NFL at any time…but wasn’t. They also liked him enough to release him when they needed roster space to re-sign fullback Harvey Unga. Yes, THE Harvey Unga. The Bears did re-sign Blanchard after the season but you’re reading way too much into that.

So, your “McCown reference wasn’t suggesting he be a mentor but for suggesting his being able to identify things on game day and relay that info to the coaching staff and Jay.” I’m just going to let that statement sit for a moment and finish putrefying.

You don’t get to have it both ways and the Bears already have a quarterbacks coach. The fact that McCown is CHEAP doesn’t make him any better a quarterback if Jay Cutler misses games due to injury, and would cost the Bears a chance to make the playoffs. This is a position where you do spend all the money that’s needed, and it is needed.

Jay Cutler has missed time to injury the past two seasons and has a history of concussion problems. Here’s something you can take away from your All-22 studying, quarterback is the most important position on the field. To get a capable quarterback from the dregs that are available they will need to “piss away” another couple of million.

D.J. Moore was probably the Bears best blitzer? He had one sack in 2010. He also lost his job as the nickel-back to Kelvin Hayden because of his subpar play. I am willing to be convinced if you can give me more than your supposition that Moore’s big plays to snap ratio is as high as any nickel DB in the league. Until then, I stand by my recommendation.

I look forward to your next set of comments. I’ll keep my hammer at the ready.
21 months ago

Well I can see where YOUR comprehension may be in question, but your desperate attempt to knock my assesment to inflate your own on things other than your own merits shows me how much of a joke you are as a writer of football, and why you should quit doing it. That or actually improve your knowledge before you put finger to keyboard. Now you can officially say Civil discourse is lost.

I guess selective comprehension is the order for the day here. When it comes to a running back carrying an offensive line Matt Forte doesn't fit in that category. If anything he hurts the O-lines stats because of his high stuff rate in short yardage situations, and at or near the goal line. He may very well be the worse starting running back in the league in short yardage situations. Considering they assign losses 120% blame to the O-line, and 100% 0-4, 5-10 50%, and 0% for 11+ yards gained your reasoning would work against the Bears O-line, and make that mid ranking even more impressive. There's a reason why the Bears have spent big money on a RB to be a specialist in short yardage situations the past few years. I also noticed you like using the body of evidence to only support your theory and completely ignore them when it is not in your favor. Well Forte's short yardage issues have been so since he came into the league. Also the Bears have been statistically one of the better producing running teams the last three years. Look it up.

Like I said watch your own tape to identify this rather than just relying on other peoples opinions, and research. Again all 22 is on sale for 24.99 at NFL network. A worthy investment for someone who wishes to be a football writer. Of course you'll have to develop an understanding of the schematics of the game first. There are many sites and writers on the web that do this. Blood sweat and chalk is a great book that should get you started. Than hunker down and see for yourself.

Again your perception is greater than your football acumen. Show me a verifiable statistic to support your Webb theory of Forte staying in to double team? Forte had less plays because he was relied on less with Marshall, and Bush on the team. I mean Cutler himself said that the entire year. Even before the first snap was made he said Forte would get less carries, and catches. Again, I saw no such evidence. I also think Forte is a terrible pass blocker. As a matter of fact the very game you're referencing was one where I thought more doubles and slide protections along with chips should've been used. Hard to be manhandled when you're being helped.

The San Fran game was the other bad one. Aside from those two games where Webb's negative plays were mostly compiled he was extremely solid. TWO games! I'll take that. If I can get only two bad games out of 16 from my LT call me tickled pink. So long as my other tackle is handling his business I can always use scheme in those two games to help his success rate,and that of the teams. Something an overwhelmed Tice failed to do on a consistent basis.

So again get the all-22 and do your own work. I actually watch plays as I have a high understanding of football schematics. Again not many LT's if any are foolishly left alone against one of the better athletes in the league. Besides, no matter what argument you try and dig up to support your opinion to overspend on Bushrod, it can be easily applied to Bushrod. Doubles, chips, slides, roll outs, quick passes, etc. I don't have time to help an adult fancying himself a football writer with my own research. Do it yourself. Show me a side by side comparison that justifies millions of dollars more on him. Maybe you'd change your mind on spending big money on a LT who actually performed worse & is 4 years older than the one you already have. I do not use stats and metrics alone. You have to blend them together. Numbers are a good reference point of where to look. Not stop there.

Again when you want to use penalties as a reference point you have to look at the progression of the player and how they improve as they go along. Its called development. Last year his penalties were way down! As I also mentioned before you have to consider the offenses too. The Saints are a quick passing team with short drops and they do their fair share of help protections too. They also have excellent interior line play which effects the tackles. Bears have had a revolving door at LG which is to Webbs left shoulder. How that affects a line's play I'll leave you to research unless you ask than I may be nice enough to teach you something. Webb played in a Martz offense. An offense where two Pro bowl tackles with the Rams had their struggles in yet alone an under developed rookie when he played RT, and a second year kid playing LT in a Martz system in the NFL for the first time.

As far as the Davis thing is concerned this really shows our ignorance. Davis was always widely known as a physical specimen. Here read this excerpt from this particular scoutong report pre-draft, "Scouts at the Senior Bowl were impressed with Kellen Davis as a physical specimen, but that was about it. He showed the potential to be a top notch tight end, but according to Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay: scouts and coaches were underwhelmed by his effort and technique. His physical tools will get him drafted, but his stock has definitely taken a hit. Kellen Davis showed at the NFL Combine, once again, that he's one of the best athletes available at tight end. Davis ran an impressive 4.6 in the 40 yard dash and certainly has the speed to stretch the seam." Read the whole thing here. http://www.fftoolbox.com/nfldraft/profiledisplay.cfm?prospect_id=1207

Yes he had potential. LOL! You need to read more I guess. I mean he runs a 4.6 40 at 6'6' and over 260! Also as I mentioned his targets to TD's ratio, and even first down % was insanely high before this season. Stats showed when you did throw to him good things happened. One would have assumed an opportunity to do more was all that was needed. nfortunately it was the only way to find out. Physically he can e as good as anyone in the league. His heart on the other hand not so much. The exact same questions keller has attatched to him. So no thanks! Like I said before this past season Davis' success rate was off the charts all be it in a small sample size. That is until he was handed the reigns where he failed.

And your rationalization on spending big money at a back up position even if it is the most important on the team is a weak and irresponsible one. Again you completely eliminate the cap and the teams other needs for this one. All you need is a competent QB to hold it down and not lose it wile making enough plays in the passing game to support your other two phases till your QB returns. IF your starting QB is IR-ed well you're screwed anyway. Campbell's history in this league hardly makes me cozy and warm at night with the thoughts of superbowl victories being won with him at the helm. Besides McCown did very well once installed as the starter once Caleb Hanie was finally sat down.

Again the fact you actually used sack amount to knock my assessment that Moore was probably the Bears best blitzer shows your desperate attempt to mask your inept knowledge of football. Probably why you waited for three days to compile this pile of crap to support your retort. If you need proof of that again I refer you to the tape. He's been with the Bears for 3 years. You can see all his blitzes, AND his big plays on tape for yourself.

Sorry but your hammer is more like a little rubber mallet. So stop trying to hit me with that thing. It tickles.
21 months ago

I see it only took you two days to put together your response. I'm only going to bother addressing a few parts of this that are semi-coherent.

When did I mention that Matt Forte wasn't effective as a short yardage back? I know that this is why the Bears signed Barber two years ago and Bush last year. I'd like you to find the spot in my previous replies where I've even mentioned this, let alone denied it. You follow that up with the statement, "Also the Bears have been statistically one of the better producing running teams the last three years. Look it up." I don't need to look it up because I did the last time and told you where they stand. I did that to give an example of how FO's disclaimer affects their ranking of the offensive line. Again, you argue my point in one section and make it in the next sentence.

On a backup quarterback, as long as Cutler is on the Bears they are in a "win now" mode. Being in a win now mode means that if Cutler gets hurt the Bears need someone who can step in and still give the team a chance to win. That player is not going to be cheap, but the words "big money" are yours, not mine.

As for your continued mentioning of McCown as a capable backup, all that shows is your incredible lack of football acumen. You might want to go and dig back into those resources you so generously included in your rant.

Why shouldn't I use one sack registered in 2010 as a counter to your claim that Moore is the "probably the Bears best blitzer" (your words)? He can't get to the quarterback. How is he an effective blitzer? I even told you I was open to changing my mind about Moore and invited you to supply me with some objective stats backing your claim to consider. You come back to me with nothing but another supposition. I thought you were all about doing the work. Back up your claim or stop making it.

I have a suggestion for you, put yourself out there and apply to write for the site. If not this site, write for another site.

It's so easy to hind behind your nothing profile and blank avatar to spew insults, put all of that knowledge to work.

You've spent all this time telling me I don't know what I'm talking about one thing you haven't done is say anything about positions and players you would target in the free agent market. I have nothing to prove to you about my knowledge and the work I do behind the scenes to put together an article. You need to work on framing a comprehensive argument. You say one thing, go to saying the other and claim you're proving your point.

If you don't agree with the article and what I had to say that's fine, even friends aren't going to agree about everything. I did my research, did my work, wrote MY article and put it out there for all to read. That's being a writer, something you know absolutely nothing about.
21 months ago
I agree!!! especially Kellen Davis

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