COMMENTARY | When Brandon Marshall was brought to Chicago, aspirations of a berth in Super Bowl XLVII were instant. When the Lovie Smith era ended in Chicago, it came as a shock to many. When the Brian Urlacher era ended, there was anger among his supporters and relief among his detractors.
The point is: change isn't always easy. Chicago has made some big moves this offseason; whether or not those moves work out remains to be seen.
Personally, I'm absolutely thrilled with some of the moves. Let's dive into the roster changes and see where we land...
Jermon Bushrod: A+
Consider this: Since arriving in Chicago in 2009, Bears QB Jay Cutler has been sacked 148 times. By comparison, the QB Jermon Bushrod blocked for as a member of the New Orleans Saints -- All-Pro and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees -- has been taken down just 95. According to Pro Football Weekly, Bushrod allowed just 4.5 sacks from the left tackle position in 2012.
After the Bushrod signing was announced, I heard endless naysaying from radio personalities in the Chicago market, saying they overpaid for him. Rubbish. After a team locks up the quarterback position, the next stop often is left tackle. That's why the Denver Broncos put a $9.7 million franchise tag on Ryan Clady -- because he protects Peyton Manning. Nate Solder is the man tasked to protect Tom Brady's blindside, and his $2.7 million cap number is an absolute steal.
Jermon Bushrod will count for just $3 million against the cap. Meaning, not only did the Bears sign a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle, they signed him to a very cap-friendly deal. This is a home run of a signing for second-year general manager Phil Emery.
Of course, the Bears always could go back to the 2012 model, when four different guys started at left tackle and surrendered a combined 10.5 sacks.
As I said in a previous piece, dealing away TE Greg Olsen was just one of former GM Jerry Angelo's many blunders. Sadly, Olsen isn't coming back. That said, the Bears picked up a solid replacement in Martellus Bennett.
A five-year veteran out of Texas A&M, Bennett spent the first four years of his NFL career as TE Jason Witten's understudy in Dallas. In 2012, his single season as a New York Giant, he caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns from QB Eli Manning. Bears tight ends last season? The totals are sad. Thirty-three catches. A total of 318 yards. Three touchdowns. That's not a good season for one tight end, let alone five.
Bennett's signing not only brought him to Chicago, it brought a merciful end to the tenures of both TEs Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth. In every sense of the word "upgrade," this is it. Bennett adds a dynamic presence at the tight end position, which should mesh well with WRs Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
D.J. Williams: A*
The asterisk in attached to this grade because, realistically, there is no objective way to grade this signing. Based on potential, it could be another A-plus.
With this deal, there is no risk for the Bears. Linebacker D.J. Williams is coming off of a suspension-shortened season, missing nine games due to failing a league-mandated drug test. He was released by the Broncos after the season.
He comes into 2013 with just a one-year, no-strings-attached deal from the Bears -- the ultimate contract year if ever there was one. If he rediscovers his form and piles up a fifth 100-tackle season and adds to his 20.5 career sacks in his 10th season, he'll be handsomely rewarded on the open market, and Chicago will have gotten a solid year from a player earning less than $1 million. As a point of comparison, Kellen Davis signed for $2 million with the Cleveland Browns.
Making low-risk, high-reward signings is the name of the game for general mangers in sports. In this respect, Phil Emery did a masterful job this offseason.
If you feel I have left any key signings out, feel more than free to chime in and leave a comment below.
Doc Hopkins has followed Chicago sports for decades. He has worked in sports media over 10 years and has been published in the Chicago Tribune. Find him on Twitter @SupermanHopkins or leave him a comment below.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Jermon Bushrod
- Martellus Bennett
- Brandon Marshall