For Emery and the Bears, Free Agency Starts at Home


If you’re a married stiff like me, I’m sure your wife has sent you to the grocery store to pick up a few things.  The first thing I do before I go to the store is to take a quick inventory of what we already have at home.  For new Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery, it’s about to be shopping season, but before he rushes off to hit the open market in search of a #1 wide receiver and more offensive line help, he needs to figure out what he already has on the roster.

The Bears have 14 free agents about to hit the market and Emery and the Bears need to figure out what to do with their own free agents before the March free agent shopping spree gets underway. Hit the jump for the Bears list of free agents and my assessment of whether they will be – or should be – back in 2012.

Zack Bowman

Remember when the Bears moved Peanut Tillman to the right cornerback to make room for Bowman at LCB, kind of the #1 CB spot?  Bowman ceded to Tim Jennings and never really regained his spot.  Big disappointment after his first season.  Doubt he returns unless it’s on the cheap.  Way cheap.

Corey Graham

Graham made his first Pro Bowl as a special teams guy, where he’s excelled in his time with the Beloved.  In said Pro Bowl, he was abused by Brandon Marshall in coverage all day long.  He’s not a corner, but has proven his value as a special teams stud.  With a Pro Bowl on his resume, his value is sure to be high.  He’s a nice guy to keep, but don’t be shocked if the Bears let him go and try to let one of the youngsters step into this role.  Don’t worry, Dave Toub has done it time and time again.

Tim Jennings

I have to admit I was wrong about Tim Jennings.  When the Bears signed Jennings a couple of years ago, I was really skeptical of the diminutive cornerback, but Jennings has proven to play much larger than his short stature.  He’s a solid tackler and a good Cover-2 corner.  If Bowman had developed the way he was supposed to, Jennings would be gone for sure.  This is a spot where the Bears might test the outside market and fall back to Jennings if they can’t find a good fit from the outside.  I also expect the Bears to draft a corner fairly high in the draft, so Jennings might become expendable.

Brandon Meriweather

This was a big bust.  When the Patriots get rid of a former Pro Bowler, there’s got to be a reason and Meriweather was proof positive of that.  It seems like all he wants to do is deliver a big blow and isn’t really interested in covering and tackling, both problems if you’re a safety.  He is as good as gone.

Craig Steltz

Steltz logged some valuable minutes late in the season when the Bears’ secondary was decimated by injuries.  Steltz has always been a steady special teams performer and added value with his contributions on defense last season.  I expect the Bears to try to bring him back for low money.

Israel Idonije

I really like Izzy but was disappointed in his performance last season.  In 2010, he thrived opposite Julius Peppers and was able to provide consistent pressure and sacks but took a major step backwards last season.  I think Izzy proved last season that he’s more of a rotation DE and can’t handle the role of starter.  I expect the Bears to address the pass rush from outside – probably in the draft and maybe even in free agency.

Amobi Okoye

Okoye was one of the few bright spots from last season’s free agent class.  He did a decent job playing the undertackle in rotation with Henry Melton.  I expect the Bears will try to bring Amobi back at a decent price.

Roy Williams

We’ve already discussed how Williams was the Bears biggest mistake of the 2011 season, so there’s no reason debating it further.  He can take his stupid first down signal and his butter fingers and get the F**K outta here.

Kellen Davis

Davis was forced into being a bigger contributor in 2011 after the Bears sent Greg Olsen packing, but in the new era of dynamic pass catching tight ends, Davis is little more than a 2nd tight end.  I don’t think he’s got the elite speed to challenge opposing defenses.  He’s a good red zone target and a decent blocker.  I expect the Bears will bring him back at low dollars and also seek to bolster this position from the outside.

Caleb Hanie

Besides Roy Williams, I’d say Calen Hanie was the Bears’ biggest disappointment.  The backup QB couldn’t win a single game against a series of very beatable opponents.  In fact, he regressed and got worse each time out.  There is NO CHANCE he gets invited back.

Josh McCown

McCown was brought in because he “knew the system” and showed a few flashes during his couple of starts, including a win against the Vikings in the season finale.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears invite him back to compete for the backup quarterback job.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears go out and get another veteran quarterback with a better resume to try to back up Jay Cutler.

Matt Forte

Forte’s contract status has been under the microscope since last offseason.  Even though the Bears brought in new GM Phil Emery, don’t expect the company line to change all that much.  Forte will get the franchise tag and the Bears will try to work out a new  deal on their terms.

Kahlil Bell

Bell is actually a restricted free agent, so the Bears have a little more control in his situation.  Expect Bell to be back and competing for the backup running back job.

Chris Massey

Massey signed on as the backup long snapper when Patrick Mannelly went down with an ACL injury in Week 10 and did a fine job.  I fully expect Mannelly to be back but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Bears went for a younger, cheaper option in someone like Massey.  Mannelly is the best in the business, but he’s getting older and is pretty expensive.  It’s not his snapping that would come into question, but his age could be a factor in kick coverage.

What do you think?  Which of these guys should be back next season?