COMMENTARY | The Chicago Bears finished the 2012 season with a respectable record of 10-6, but failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Bears coach Lovie Smith lost his job shortly after the season ended. A lot of the blame for the Bears' late season collapse can be directed at the offense. The Bears have a lot of talent at their skill positions, but sub-par offensive line play sharply brought their production down.
This offseason, Chicago has made moves to try and fill needs on offense and defense. Some moves have been really good. Others, not so much. How have the Bears done overall?
This is far from a comprehensive list of signings, re-signings and other assorted moves. I will not be covering the decision to franchise defensive tackle Henry Melton, for instance. For the record, I thought that was a good move. Sorry, I am getting distracted. Let's talk free agency!
Jermon Bushrod is a former Pro Bowler. He has only missed one career game to injury. He gives the Bears' weakest unit an anchor going forward. The Bears needed an offensive lineman they could trust and they got one.
His five year, $35 million deal is not cheap. However, you have to pay in free agency to get quality players, especially at left tackle.
I have heard arguments that the Bears should have gone after former Dolphins tackle Jake Long. Long is certainly a better player, but the Bears' cap situation made it nearly impossible to sign him. Long got a four year, $34 million deal from the St. Louis Rams.
Five million a year isn't cheap, but I would take Bushrod's contract over five years instead of Long's contract for four.
For some reason, the Bears have ignored the pass catching tight end for the last couple of seasons. Part of that is due to the fact that Kellen Davis is really bad. Understanding that Kellen Davis is really bad, Phil Emery went after a tight end who could actually catch passes. He got former New York Giant Martellus Bennett.
Bennett is not exactly a household name, but was rock solid for the Giants last season. Putting him on my fantasy team was one of the best decisions I made last year.
Why? Bennett catches red zone touchdowns. The Bears have struggled to maintain and finish drives the last couple of seasons. Bennett gives Jay Cutler a big, sure handed target in the end zone. I couldn't be happier.
It is impossible to keep everyone during free agency. However, letting Roach go created a sudden need at the linebacker position. At first, I thought this move was to allow the Bears cap space to re-sign Brian Urlacher, which obviously didn't come to pass.
Roach hasn't been a star for the Bears, but he has been a productive strong side linebacker. Letting Urlacher go and using the available money to re-sign Roach would have given the Bears more freedom in the draft when it came to linebackers. You would still have Roach and Lance Briggs as your savvy veterans. Phil Emery then could have pursued a linebacker in the second or fourth rounds.
The Bears have signed D.J. Williams and James Anderson in free agency to fill the void. However, neither player represents a long term solution at linebacker. Even Lance Briggs, who I love, is starting to get long in the tooth.
Now, the Bears are projected to pick players such as Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, Georgia's Alec Ogletree and Kansas State's Arthur Brown in the first round of a draft that is stacked with offensive line talent. Fans might revolt if they take a linebacker in the first round.
The Bears decide not to re-sign veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher: B
All of that being said, letting Brian walk was the right thing to do. I feel that the one year, $2 million offer that they gave him was fair. He will be 35 when the season starts, and has had injury concerns the last few seasons.
The problem I have with this move is that the Bears indicated that they did not want to negotiate with Urlacher. I have gone on record saying that Urlacher needed to go. However, he is a legend and deserves more respect from the organization.
I would have loved to see Urlacher retire in Chicago, but the NFL is a business. I wish Brian good luck wherever he ends up.
The Bears sign former New York Jets guard Matt Slauson to a one-year deal: B+
Phil Emery made another smart move here. Chicago's offensive line doesn't need stars. It needs starters. It needs production. At left tackle and guard, they now have productive players. Competition amongst James Brown, Gabe Carimi and Edwin Williams will determine who starts at the other guard spot.
Right tackle is still up in the air. J'marcus Webb and the recently re-signed Jonathan Scott are poised to compete at that position. It would make me feel a lot better if the Bears drafted a young tackle to compete with those two men during training camp. Or you can just cut Webb because he is terrible. Yeah, let's do that.
Overall, the Bears have done a solid job in free agency. I give them a B+. If Phil Emery would have handled the linebacker situation better, he might have gotten an A. Now, Emery must focus on the draft to fill holes and get depth at key positions. No matter what happens, the draft is always a fun ride.
Tyler Emken is a journalist and sports enthusiast operating out of central Illinois.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Chicago Bears
- Martellus Bennett
- Brian Urlacher
- Phil Emery