I’ve already covered free agents that I think the Bears should target this year, Bears free-agents that I think they should bring back, Bears currently on the roster that I think should be cut, but today I’m going to look at players currently under contract for other NFL teams that could be salary cap casualties and become free agent targets for the Bears.
With plenty of teams in salary cap trouble, there is going to be an influx of talented veterans to the free agent pool. These players are going to be late additions to the market and with teams already well into planning their free agent strategies they could be left without many suitors and available for much less than their market value. The Bears took advantage of this situation last year signing late cuts DJ Williams & James Anderson for a total of 2.5 M which is 7 M less than they made combined in 2012.
The Bears are currently about 7 M under the cap, but will probably make some room with cuts and salary reductions in the next few weeks. The Bears have a lot of needs so I expect more under the radar type signings then big name players. If the price is right on some of the projected cuts below, then they are a possibility. I’ve broken down the potential cuts by position and only listed positions that are a significant need for the Bears.
With Michael Bush a candidate to be released and no other running backs on the roster except undrafted free agent Michael Ford, the Bears will need to add at least 1 running back. If the Bears still think Forte needs a power back compliment, there are a couple good ones available right now (Joique Bell, Toby Gerhart) and the guys on the list below would be an upgrade as well.
Shonne Greene – Titans (3.2M): Basically a younger version of Michael Bush who will probably cost less than half ($1.5M) of what the Bears are on tap to pay Bush this year ($3.8M).
Pierre Thomas – Saints (2.5M) – Personally I think Thomas is a good value at his current price, but for some reason the Saints just don’t seem to appreciate Thomas as much as they should. He’s never been given a feature role, despite a 4.6 ypc career mark, solid pass blocking, and excellent receiving skills out of the backfield. I’m a little biased as a U of I alum, but Thomas’ stats back it up. The Saints are already 13.7 M over the cap, so there will be some cuts. They strike me as a team that thinks most RBs are replaceable so they may give Thomas his walking papers. If the Bears can snag him for around half of what they are scheduled to pay Bush, then they should do it. Thomas is basically a poor man’s Forte and would make an excellent back-up.
The Bears have been searching for a backup TE for the last few years and neither of their last two TE additions (Donte Rosario, Matt Spaeth) worked out. I don’t think the Bears will spend much on the position, but there could be upgrades available in the 1-2 M range.
Jacob Tamme – Broncos (3M): With the emergence of Julius Thomas as the Broncos primary TE and the Broncos short on cap room (until they release Champ Bailey and his 10 M number), a 3 M back-up tight end is a luxury they probably can’t afford. Tamme isn’t a great run blocker, but he would give the Bears a second reliable pass catching option at tight end for the first time since the Olsen / Dez Clark days.
Zach Miller – Seahawks (7M): Super Bowl champs are always pillaged in free agency and the Seahawks will be no exception with 15 free agents currently. They also have major raises coming up next off-season for Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, so they need to cut any bad contracts they can, and 7 M for Zach Miller certainly qualifies. Like Tamme, Miller is a better receiver than blocker, but he should come cheap (<$2M) and would give Cutler another weapon in 2 TE sets.