Chicago Bears Free Agency Preview


Feb 21, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery speaks at a press conference during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been awfully quiet at Halas Hall the last few days.  While other teams have been re-structuring deals to get under the cap, making big trades re-signing their own free agents, the Bears have been on radio silence.  Someone make sure the phone lines to Halas Hall didn’t get cut during that fancy remodeling project that’s underway in Lake Forest.

The Chicago Bears are entering a crucial period for the new regime.  Phil Emery is entering his second offseason as GM and now he’s got his hand-picked head coach in Marc Trestman as they try to re-shape a 10-6 team into a consistent playoff team.

The Bears made their first big move of the offseason by applying the franchise tag to defensive tackle Henry Melton, eating up about $8.5 million of their estimated $12 million in salary cap space.  The rest of their free agency plan must involve restructuring contracts or clearing cap room or else they won’t be able to make many moves.

Notable free agents:

Henry Melton (Franchised)

Brian Urlacher

Izzy Idonije

Kelvin Hayden

Nick Roach

Lance Louis

Zack Bowman

Jason Campbell

None of their remaining guys figure to carry a huge price tag, but depending on who you believe, the Bears have anywhere from $4-$7 million left in cap space and an estimated $3.5 million needed for the rookie pool, every penny will count.

The biggest and most emotional decision the Bears need to make in free agency is what do to with Brian Urlacher.  He’s been the face of the franchise for 14 years and there are a lot of #54’s in the stands every Sunday.  The Bears need to approach this one carefully.  They want to give Urlacher the proper respect but can’t break the bank on a 35 year old middle linebacker who’s coming off an injury-plagued season.  I made my pitch for the top in-house free agents the Bears should try to keep.  I think Nick Roach is more valuable to them than Brian Urlacher.  If you could only afford one, which would you keep?

Assuming the Bears can create some cap space with a couple of cuts (Devin Hester and Kellen Davis are tops on the list) and possibly a couple of extensions (Charles Tillman and Julius Peppers might be good candidates), they would definitely be in the market to get an offensive lineman or two like Jermon Bushrod, Jake Long or Andy Levitre, a pass catching tight end like Jared Cook or Dustin Keller and a linebacker regardless of what they do with Urlacher.

One of our new writers thinks Mike Wallace should be the #1 priority.  I personally think he’s shopping for a luxury item when the team has more pressing needs and I fully expect them to be bargain hunters and look at guys like OG Brandon Moore.

What do you think?  If the Bears could only afford one big ticket guy, which guy would you like to see them maneuver to get?  Jake Long?  Mike Wallace?  If the Bears can only keep one linebacker of their two free agents, would you keep Roach or Urlacher?  Are you surprised the Bears haven’t made any moves yet?

Free agency kicks off in a mere few hours, so answers to these questions and many more will soon be forthcoming.  Stay tuned for updates on Free Agency as they become available.