Looking Inward

We will have all off season to examine what players the Bears might get through free agency, although I’m already growing tired of the Donovan McNabb soap opera. Any great team has to be able to develop talent from within, and if last week’s game taught us anything, it’s that this team can rise back to the top of the NFL just as quickly as it fell to the bottom. To do so, the Bears have to not only have a good off season, but make up for the mistakes they made this past off season.

According to my handy Bears Media Guide, here are the list of players with expiring contracts:

Brandon Ayanbadejo

Obagemi Ayanbadejo

Bernard Berrian

Lance Briggs

Ruben Brown

Rashied Davis

Antonio Garay

John Gilmore

Rex Grossman

Leon Joe

Dante Wesley

Brandon McGowan

Bernard Berrian (usatoday.com)I’m completely amazed that all the attention has gone to Rex and Lance and people have forgotten all about Bernard Berrian. He has consistently proved himself to be the number 1 receiver on this team, even though he lines up next to Mushin Muhammed. Moose may be the more seasoned veteran, but Bernard has become one of the prime deep threats in the league. It would be foolish to let him go. The Bears have the opportunity to let Briggs go and use Jamar Williams in his place and see how well he can hold up. There is no receiver on this roster who can come close to replacing Berrian’s ability. Devin Hester may have more blazing speed but has a long way to go to learn the offensive playbook and show the solid hands we have in Berrian.

I initially felt the Bears should make Briggs a priority, but if it comes down to money, which it always does, I’d rather have Berrian. I love Briggs, but the reality is that he doesn’t make many big, flashy plays. He has become a Pro Bowler because of his solid tackling skills combined with a defense designed to flush the ball towards the linebackers. When Briggs was picked up in the 3rd round of the 2003 draft with the 68th overall pick, he was not highly regarded. It was because he flourished in the Bears defense that he became so popular. Nothing says that Briggs can flourish in another defensive scheme or that another drafted linebacker couldn’t replace him. I worry that because Briggs does not make many flashy plays that he may become a bust in his next destination. Only time will tell if I’m right, but unless he ends up with a great opportunity to play in New England or San Diego, I think he might be exposed and asked to do too much.

I will expose myself a little more and make the argument for Rex Grossman’s return. The thought of Kyle Orton and Brian Griese battling for the starting job next year is troubling. Neither quarterback gives you the hope of making the playoffs that Grossman can. He may make bonehead plays but he also makes spectacular plays that propel his team to victory. Orton or Griese could get the Bears to 8 or 9 wins, but I think with Grossman at the healm they could reach 11 or 12 wins. He is a risk taker and exactly what the teams needs to get back at the top.

Ayanbadejo Fumble Recovery (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)As for all the rest, hopefully the Ayanbadejo boys will give the Bears a discount for signing the brothers and giving Obagemi a chance after his early season troubles. Leon Joe has been nothing short of a bust and a big disappointment. Ruben Brown will have to decide if he wants to retire or let his arm heal for another go around for a run at a Super Bowl. I don’t think anyone will really notice if Rashied Davis leaves after a houdini act of playing a big role last year and disappearing this year. Antonio Garay doesn’t even deserve me finishing his sentence. John Gilmore is a good player and contributor but is odd man out at tight end where the Bears have a deep pool of talent. Dante Wesley is cornerback and that’s about all anyone knows about him. Brandon McGowan will likely disappear and become a die hard Bears fan trivia question and joke when referencing back to the secondary on 2007 team. He’ll represent for defense what Bobby Wade represents for inept offenses of previous years.

So it comes down to only a few names. Berrian, Grossman, and Ayanbadejo. Briggs would be a welcome sight back next year but I doubt the Bears will make the investment. Jamar Williams looks too good and the Bears have too many needs in other spots on the field. Whether Briggs plays on Sunday or if he allows Williams to put on another great audition for a starting spot could be the spotlight for their game against the Saints.

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Tags: Abagemi Ayanbadejo Antonio Garay Bears Free Agents Brandon Ayanbadejo Brandon McGowan Brian Griese Chicago Bears Dante Wesley Donovan McNabb Jamar Williams John Gilmore Kyle Orton Lance Briggs Lean Joe Mushin Muhammed Rashied Davis Rex Grossman Ruben Brown

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