I covered the Bears high-profile free agent targets yesterday in part 1 and today I’m going to cover the less exciting veterans, reclamation projects, and depth signings. With the free agent prices spiraling out of control the last two days, the Bears may be forced to do most of their shopping from these tiers instead. I’m still in shock over CB Sam Shields getting almost $10M per and DE Everson Griffen, a situational pass rusher, getting over $8M. The salary cap did increase, which may account for some of the increase in spending, but it still seems crazy to me. Once the initial free agent frenzy dies down there will be veterans available for less than their value just like there is every year, so the Bears may have to be patient in order to take advantage of some deals on aging players that might have a few good years left or draft busts who still have untapped talent. I’ve recapped my favorite targets for the Bears assuming roughly $20M in cap money on the last page if you can make it that far.
I am embarrassed over my salary predictions yesterday, I was 3M off on Griffen so that doesn’t bode well for the rest of my predictions, but I am going to keep trying and I will put an estimated price tag on the players below. Please take it easy on me in the comments if I am way off. If anyone predicted Griffen would get $8M per despite only playing on 3rd down, then they are better at this than me.
Tier 3 – Solid Veterans ($2-$4M)
Last year the Bears made a couple of signings out of this tier, picking up starting LBs DJ Williams and James Anderson for a little over 1 million each. Both guys outplayed their value and Williams will probably be back, while Anderson wore down towards the end of the season and won’t be back next year. There are some good players on this list and due to the Bears tight salary cap situation they may end up with a few of these guys in lieu of the more exciting names I listed in part 1.
RB Darren Sproles, Saints (30, $2M) – Boomer covered Sproles a few days go and I think he’s on to something. The Bears haven’t had a good change of pace back in a long time, and Sproles could thrive in Marc Trestman’s system. He looked a bit less explosive last year and at 30 years old he may not have much left in the tank but the Bears could give him around 6-8 touches a game to keep him fresh and add another dimension to the offense. If the price is right (<$2M), I think it’s worth looking into.
TE Garrett Graham, Texans (27, $2M) – Trestman wanted an H-back / move TE last year but there wasn’t one available in the Bears price range and the internal option, Fendi Onobun, failed miserably. Obobun is still around and supposedly made strides on the practice squad last year, but I can’t stop picturing him dropping passes last preseason. If the Bears aren’t ready to give Onobun a chance, Garrett Graham would be an excellent choice. He was forced to play outside his skill-set last year after injures to Owen Daniels, but he’s perfect for a second receiving TE role.
WR Lance Moore, Saints (30, $1.5M) – If the Bears keep Earl Bennett then this is moot, but if they release him to free up $2.4M in cap space, then Moore might be an option. He is an ideal slot receiver with sure hands and the ability to get open vs zone coverage. The Bears are set on the outside with Marshall & Jeffrey, but a small shifty receiver that knows how to get open like Moore might be the perfect complement.
DT Vance Walker, Raiders (27, $3M) - Solid DT, who has graded out positively the last three seasons, but doesn’t really stand out vs the run or pass. Walker was better vs the run in 2012 and then better generating pass rush in 2013, so it’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting with this guy, but if he ever put it all together in the same season he could be a force. Even if he doesn’t improve much from the last two seasons, he’s a quality DT who would improve the Bears DT rotation.
DT Alex Carrington, Bills (27, $3M) - Had a mini-breakout year in 2012 with 15 QB hurries and a solid 8.7 overall grade from PFF (16th overall), but missed most of 2013 with a quad injury. Carrington would be a good fit at the 3 technique position that is currently empty on the bears roster. His injury in 2013 could lower his price enough to make sense for the Bears. Good sleeper target.
DE Justin Tuck, Giants (30, $4M)- His days of double-digit sack totals are probably behind him, but Tuck is still excellent vs the run and Emery has stated multiple times that stopping the run in his first priority. Tuck can be a force against the run still and just might have 1 more good season left rushing the passer. I think it’s worth $3M or so to find out. His price might be much higher based on name value, but the market for over 30 players has been bleak the last two seasons so the Bears could get Tuck for a decent price and hopefully get 1 more pro bowl type season out of him. It’s a gamble, he looked shot at some points last season, but with the ridiculous price tag on young free agents right now, I think the Bears could zag and grab a couple of quality veterans.
DE Anthony Spencer (30, $4M) - Was a stud in 2012 with 11 sacks and the top grade of all 3-4 OLBs from ProFootball Focus. Spencer got hurt (knee) in the first game of 2013 and missed the rest of the season. He has had a couple of surgeries on his knee since then and it is unknown how explosive he will be once recovered. The uncertainty over his injury could drive his price down enough for the Bears to be interested. Spencer has been a 3-4 OLB for most of his career, but at just under 270 pounds Spencer could theoretically play DE in a 4-3. It would be a risky signing due to his injury and position change, but the Bears need to be creative without as much cap room as most other teams in the league.