I think the Bears are just about done with most significant moves leading up to the draft, so I thought it would be a good time to review their moves and give them some grades. I’ve decided to grade them on the following criteria: Filling Needs, Impact Players and Taking Care of Their Own. Follow me inside to see how they did meeting those categories.
To keep up with all the Bears’ free agent moves, check out my guys over at NFL Spin Zone for the latest on all free agent moves, including the Bears’ moves.
The Bears had some pretty obvious needs heading into free agency – #1 wide receiver, offensive line, defensive end, cornerback, backup quarterback and linebacker among others. They took care of the top need in a big way when they traded a pair of third rounders for Brandon Marshall. It would be easy to rest on their laurels with that, but they continued to add solid depth with veteran quarterback Jason Cambpell and arguably the top free agent running back in Michael Bush.
The Bears added a lot of special teams players with guys like Eric Weems, Blake Costanzo and Devin Thomas that will provide solid depth to make a strong unit even stronger.
A lot of Bears fans were clamoring for Mario Williams to become a bookend DE opposite Julius Peppers, but neither Williams nor fallback option Jeremy Mincey joined the Bears. Neither did Kamerion Wimbley, who was a late addition to the Free Agent class.
The Bears also failed to add help to protect Jay Cutler and all his new weapons with any offensive linemen.
Overall, the Bears filled a few needs and did it with some top guys, but left a few holes.
You might say that Vincent Jackson was the top free agent wide receiver to enter free agency. That didn’t stop the Bears from going out a finding arguably a better option, especially considering the relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler. I can’t think of another player that has the potential to have a bigger impact on his team than Marshall can make with the Bears.
Besides Marshall, the Bears added possibly the top quarterback on the market not named Peyton Manning. To have Jason Campbell, who is a starter caliber player, as Cuter’s backup, is a huge upgrade. Now add Michael Bush, who is one of the top running backs out there, to spell Matt Forte and you’ve got some star power in area where you were really lacking.
Aside from Tampa and maybe St. Louis, I can’t really think of many teams who upgraded their talent more than the Bears did.
Taking Care of Their Own
Let’s put the Matt Forte issue out there. The Bears have been dragging this thing out and it doesn’t look like a deal will be struck, but the good news is that they have him under her control for a couple more years.
The Bears did a decent job taking care of their own, at least the ones that we wanted them to take care of. They retained free agents Tim Jennings, Israel Idonije, Kellen Davis and Craig Steltz, all guys who provide solid depth as role players. I expect Davis to have a big year in the new look offense and I would like the Jennings signing even more if he’s in a rotation with a high draft pick corner. Same goes for Izzy Idonije, who would work really well as a situational guy alongside a high draft pick.
The Bears took care of the guys who they needed to take care of, while letting guys like Frank Omiyale and Brandon Meriweather sign with other teams while letting guys like Marion Barber and Roy Williams just fade away.
The Bears should get an incomplete because we don’t know how the other half of this puzzle will come together with the upcoming draft but give new GM Phil Emery, whose expertise is supposed to be college scouting, a solid grade in his debut running the Bears in his first foray in Free Agency. There is a lot more work to do and needs to fill like Defensive End, Cornerback Linebacker, Offensive Line and another Wide Receiver, but so far so good.
Overall Grade: B+