Chicago Bears 2015 Free Agent Decisions

1 of 4

The Chicago Bears have a lot of question marks going into the 2015 season, including some major ones like choosing a new GM and head coach. The QB position is another big one, but they also have 22 free agents to make a decision on. Few decisions will be made until a new GM is in place, but it isn’t too early to start looking at who the Bears should keep and who should be let go. A lot can change in the next few months, but I project the Bears to have roughly $30M in cap space this offseason.

I’m making these recommendations under the assumption that the Bears are going to be sticking with a 4-3 defensive alignment. It’s far from a sure thing, considering about half of NFL teams run a 3-4 base scheme, but a switch to a 3-4 would create even more holes for a Bears team that already has a lot of them. The Bears are missing key 3-4 pieces like a space-eating nose tackle, a 3-4 defensive end besides LaMarr Houston, and 2 pass rushing OLBs (unless you count McClellin as one). It would also lessen the effectiveness of current Bears still under contract like Jared Allen, Willie Young, 2nd year DTs Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton, and Jay Ratliff. Those players are all much better fits for a 4-3 scheme. So unless the new head coach wants to blow up the roster and rebuild, I think the Bears stick with a 4-3 base scheme at least for 2015. The Tennessee Titans are a recent example of how difficult the switch can be if not done gradually; they went from the 13th ranked defense in 2013 to 27th in 2014, their first season in a 3-4 scheme.

I’ve listed the 19 unrestricted and 3 exclusive rights free agents below in descending order based on 2014 salaries. On the next pages I will breakdown the players I think the Bears should keep, the ones they need to let go, and decent players with small salaries whose fate will be decided by what the Bears do in the offseason.

Unrestricted free agents (UFA) are free to sign with any team. If a team loses more UFAs than they sign in the offseason they will be awarded compensatory draft picks. The number and round of picks depends on the difference between the total value of the contracts signed by the players lost compared to the total contract value of players signed.

An exclusive rights free agent (ERFA) is a player whose contract has expired and has three or fewer tenured years in the league. If his original team makes a contract offer at the two or three year veteran minimum, the player must return to his team. His original team must make a contract offer by the league deadline or the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. No draft pick compensation is awarded if a team loses an ERFA.

2015 Chicago Bears free agents:

* All players listed are UFAs unless designated otherwise.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

OLB Lance Briggs

CB Charles Tillman

ILB D.J. Williams

K Jay Feely

ST Stephen Paea

TE Donte Rosario

LS Jeremy Cain

FB Montell Owens

C Brian de la Puente

CB Sherick McManis

S Danny McCray

DE Trevor Scott

G/T Eben Britton

DE Austen Lane

WR Josh Morgan

LB Daryl Sharpton

S Chris Conte

TE Zach Miller

QB Jimmy Clausen

CB Al Louis-Jean (ERFA)

CB Demontre Hurst (ERFA)

ILB DeDe Lattimore (ERFA)