Throughout the Jerry Angelo era, the conversation around free agency, and especially the draft, seemed to return to the defensive side of the ball. Now, it seems, the worm has turned and while I believe the Bears off-season will be dominated on the offensive side, the defense has many questions to answer. I will not talk about the Safety position. It has been a very long time since that has happened. Two Pro Bowl cornerbacks on the roster too! Do we even need to draft a lineman? Well, the free agency period will have much to say about that as it always does.
The most notable free agents to consider first are the guys from last year’s roster. Brian Urlacher, Nick Roach, Izzy Idonije and of course Henry Melton are all free agents. Most successful GM’s have a philosophy, stated or implied, of maintaining the continuity of the past as they move their team into the future. Some leaders do not manage to accomplish this, and those GM’s tend to find the unemployment line fairly quickly.
As Trestman was hired and he met the press, I listened very closely to his words and, more importantly, watched his actions. I can say, in no uncertain terms, that his hiring of Defensive coordinator, Mel Tucker, reinforced his own words with action. I like that consistency. Tucker is a guy charged with taking a veteran group of players and maintaining their high level of play. No 3-4 defensive scheme’s anytime soon Bear fans. First we have to sign a few of our own free agents, though.
The first order of business is Defensive Tackle and specifically, Henry Melton. Melton is the top free agent at his position and would draw much interest and a big paycheck if he were to reach the open market. He won’t though, as the Bears are sure to franchise him and keep him from leaving. A GM strives his whole career to find guys like Melton. That is a 4th round pick that becomes a pro-bowl caliber player and a juggernaut for years to come. He is young and he is healthy. I cannot envision any scenario that has him in a uniform other than a Bear uniform. There are guys like Sammie Hill from the Lions and the Saints’ Cedric Ellis but there are none who offer a better value than a franchise tagged Melton.
When have you last seen two Chicago Bears Cornerbacks in the Pro Bowl? Well, we do not have to worry about replacing Charles Tillman or Tim Jennings. There are a couple of other players, DJ Moore and Kelvin Hayden, who very well might not be back with the team. There are a few names to keep in mind as March 12th approaches. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is now likely to hit the open market and offers a possibility for Chicago. Jacksonville’s Derek Cox is only 26 years old and might be a target for the Bears and is my favorite to join the Bears. I also believe Leodis McKelvin might be an option that the Bear’s brain trust is sure to take a close look.
Two other notable positions that I want to look at are Linebacker and Defensive End. Israel Idonije is a free agent and I do believe the Bears are interested in signing him. He is on the wrong side of 30 but has been solid and consistent. Last season was arguably his best. The Rams’ William Hayes may test free agency as well. He is 28 years old and has been buried on the depth chart which has limited his snaps. Cliff Avril, from the Lions, is scheduled to hit the market too. I had my doubts that he would, but I am not so sure now. If the Bears get a shot at him, he would be worth a close look.
Linebacker is the last position to look at for the purposes of this story. Urlacher has another year or two in him in my opinion and I think he is motivated to strike a deal. Having personal experience myself in uprooting my family and moving about the country, I can say there is a time when that is desirable and a time when it isn’t. At best, Urlacher only has a couple more years to play. This will likely put moving, to chase money and a couple more years of playing time, in the category of undesirable. Nick Roach is a free agent as well and I think he will be signed. There are names like Conner Barwin from the Texans and Jacksonville’s Daryl Smith to consider. I just don’t see the Bears making a big splash in the area of Linebacker this year in free agency.
Now for my wildcard prediction. Watch for the Bears to make a significant move, either in the draft or free agency, for a top-notch pass rushing defensive end. Say for argument’s sake, Cliff Avril joins the team. This would be a signal that the Bears are seriously looking at shifting Shea McClellin to Linebacker. I know the leadership has said repeatedly that McClellin will have his hand in the dirt and rush the passer, but I have to believe the new Chicago geek squad (Emery and Trestman) will analyze the film and if it says McClellin is better in space and standing, then that will be what is done. No ego’s, only purpose. The last guy that I heard say that McClellin will have his hand in the dirt, was fired. The winds of change are blowing in Chicago.
What other surprises do the Bears have in store for us? Let’s see your suggestions in the Comments below.