Chicago Bears 2015 Free Agent Decisions

4 of 4

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The players below are backups who have shown flashes of competency when given a chance to play, but have not performed well enough to earn starting jobs. Teams need good depth and these players can provide that, but their future with the Bears depends on their price tag and what the Bears do in the draft and free agency. Jimmy Clausen is worth keeping around at his 2014 salary of $645,000, but if he wants a raise to the standard veteran backup rate of around $3M per year, than it’s a different story. Even at that price Clausen may be worth keeping around, unless of course the Bears draft a QB this year. If they pick up a QB in the draft, then the choice comes down to $2-$3M for Clausen or $500k for a similar option in David Fales. Most of these players are in a similar position. Their future with the Bears is directly dependent on how much money they are asking for and if the Bears have a younger, cheaper alternative. These guys are useful backups, but when pressed into action they have performed at barely the league average for their position. If the Bears can replace them with younger players with more upside and cheaper salaries, they should.

If the price is right:

QB Jimmy Clausen – With Jay Cutler’s struggles this year, I would be very surprised if the Bears don’t either draft a QB relatively early or bring in competition via free agency. Clausen performed fairly well in his one start against a fierce Lions defense, but he’s not the long-term answer at QB. The Bears blocked an attempt by the New England Patriots to sign rookie David Fales off their practice squad, which leads me to believe they think Fales has a future in the league at least as a back-up. The Bears aren’t going to keep 4 QBs, so if the Bears draft or sign a QB then that probably signals the end of Clausen’s career in Chicago.

G/T Eben Britton – His versatility has been valuable for the Bears the last two seasons with Britton filling in at RT, RG, LG, and TE. Britton has played at just above the league average at each position (according to PFF) but struggled to stay healthy in 2014. He’s only 27 years old so should have some good football left, but rookie backups Ryan Groy, Charles Leno, and Michael Ola all showed flashes of potential this season. I’m not sure if the Bears have any room for Britton, especially if he is looking for a raise from his $730,000 salary.

CB/ST Sherick McManis – The Bears special teams unit was so bad in 2013 that they probably need all the help they can get. Despite McManis’ reputation for being the Bears best special teams player, the advanced metrics don’t really back that up. According to Pro Football Focus, McManis was the Bears 5th most effective coverage guy this year (Demontre Hurst was best by far) and the 4th in 2013. Assuming PFF is close to accurate, McManis was the 5th best coverage guy on one of the worst special teams units in the NFL. To put that in perspective McManis ranked 148th in the league in special teams coverage. So his special teams value is at best debatable and despite the Bears struggles in the secondary the last two seasons, McManis hasn’t been able to earn any defensive snaps being passed over by 20-year old rookie Al Louis-Jean on the depth chart this year. Regardless of what the analytics say, I think McManis is a solid special teams player, he just isn’t a difference maker and his production can be replaced (if not surpassed) for less than the $730,000 he made this year.

MLB Daryl Sharpton – I thought the Bears found a steal off the waiver wire scrap heap when they signed Sharpton early in the season. The former 4th round pick in 2010 was solid in Houston (when healthy) for the first 4 years of his career and then was signed in free agency by the Redskins who released him before the 2014 season started because he couldn’t stay healthy. The undersized MLB got a start for the Bears in week 6 vs the Falcons and gave the defensive a boost with his aggressive play. Sharpton played pretty well for three straight games and I thought at worst the Bears had found a solid backup MLB, but injuries struck again and he didn’t play from week 8 on. I like his potential, but Sharpton has missed an average of just under 6 games per season before signing with the Bears and just can’t stay healthy enough to rely on as a rotational linebacker. Sharpton’s value is in his aggressive, all-out style, but that is what keeps getting him hurt. I hope he ends up on the roster next year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears think the injury risk is too much.

LS Jeremy Cain – I don’t remember any mistakes from the long snapper this season which is a good thing, but Cain had a -3 grade from PFF, so it’s possible I missed a few bad snaps. I never thought I would say this, but I miss Patrick Mannelly.

FB Montell Owens – Who? The Bears signed Owens less than a month ago (12/11/14) and his future is directly tied to whoever the Bears bring in as an offensive coordinator. A lot of teams don’t even use a fullback anymore, so there is a chance the position will be obsolete for the Bears next year. Owens is a decent fullback, but he has excelled on special teams in his career, making the Pro Bowl with the Jags in both 2010 & 2011. He’s going to be 31 next year, so I’m not sure how much football he has left.