Chicago Bears – 2016 Potential Free Agents (Offense)
TE Ladarius Green, Chargers – Has been held back in San Diego the last two seasons as Antonio Gates back up and Gates is showing no sign of stepping away from the game any time soon. I can’t imagine Green wants to come back to San Diego as the backup again, so unless something changes with Gates or the Chargers make some playing time promises I think Green will go elsewhere.
The Bears are rumored to be shopping Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller is better suited as a #2 TE, which could lead the Bears to test out the free agent market at the position. Green is still young, 25, has an ideal TE frame (6’6 | 237) and the athletic ability to be both a dangerous receiver and an impact blocker. Right now he is more of the former than the latter, but his blocking skills have improved over the last couple of seasons and more consistent snaps should speed up his development.
Tight ends with the combination of Green’s size, speed (4.53) and natural pass-catching skills don’t come around often and the Bears could have a major hole at the position if they deal Bennett. It’s mostly an upside play with Green, but the upside is significant. It’s a dice roll that could pay off very well for the Bears if they are willing to make it.
TE Dwayne Allen, Colts – Assuming the Bears rid themselves of Martellus Bennett’s attitude issues and re-sign late season breakout Zach Miller, the Bears would most likely be looking for an in-line tight end who can run block, be a weapon in the red zone, and isn’t a liability between the 20s.
Allen checks all of those boxes, but has had some trouble staying healthy with 21 games missed over the last three seasons. He hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year in 2012 which may benefit the Bears, as a player with his skill-set probably wouldn’t hit the free agent market without legitimate injury concerns.
As a rookie Allen showed the potential to be a future Pro Bowl tight end. He excelled as a run blocker, made things happen after the catch, and was a reliable red zone option. He missed all but one game in 2013 with a hip injury, but had a breakout season in 2014 with 8 TDs. In 2015 Allen took a step back with just 16 catches for 109 yards and one TD despite playing in 13 games. In his defense, Allen was playing hurt most of the season and the Colts offense as a whole was dysfunctional.
The Bears would be taking a risk signing Allen due to his inability to stay healthy and poor 2015 performance, but the upside is massive. The 2014 version of Allen would give the Bears a starting caliber in-line TE who would improve the run game and give Jay Cutler another weapon in the passing game and red zone. Whether they want to have two injury risks, Allen & Miller, as the primary tight ends is a big question but they both have the upside to give the Bears two dynamic weapons when healthy.
WR Rishard Matthews, Dolphins – The Bears depth chart at wide receiver seems pretty stacked with Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Eddie Royal, and Marquess Wilson occupying the top four spots, but there were plenty of games this season that none of them were healthy enough to play. The Bears may be looking to bring in some more reliable talent at the position or part ways with any of the above receivers except White. If they end up looking at free agent receivers, Matthews makes a lot of sense.
Last season Matthews (6’0 | 220) set career highs in catches (43), yards (662), and touchdowns (4) in just 11 games and should get a substantial raise from his 7th rounder salary and possibly a chance to start somewhere as a slot receiver. Despite his solid season, it’s doubtful the cash strapped Dolphins will pay to bring Matthews back with last year’s 14th overall pick DeVante Parker waiting in the wings to take over.
I also doubt the Bears make a significant offer on Matthews unless they end up releasing either Eddie Royal, who still has $4.5M in guaranteed money on the books, or Marquess Wilson. I could see the Bears releasing both players as they failed to contribute much of anything in 2015 and look to add a more reliable slot option to pair with Jeffery and White in 2016. If so, Matthews could be the guy.
OT Mike Remmers, Panthers – Former walk-on at Oregon St and undrafted free agent who spent time on six NFL teams in his first four years in the league before earning the starting right tackle job with the Panthers late in the 2014 season. Remmers started all 16 games this year at right tackle for one of the top rushing attacks in the league.
He lacks the athleticism to play on the left side, but if the Bears are considering moving Long to left tackle, then Remmers could be an option to start on the right. Remmers doesn’t stand out in any one area, but has a solid all around game and is just 26 so could have some remaining upside.
OG Ronald Leary, Cowboys (RFA) – The emergence of rookie La’el Collins at guard sent former starter Leary to the bench last season. In 2014 Leary was the starting right guard on the best O-line in football and at just 26 years old should still be near his prime. The Cowboys may put up a fight for their top reserve lineman, but if the Bears are willing to pay Leary as a starter then it’s doubtful the Cowboys could afford to match.
The Bears clearly need an upgrade on the other side of Matt Slauson and Leary has proven capable of being a mauler in the run game and competent in pass pro. Leary would start for most teams, is a significant upgrade over the Bears current options, and is still young enough to keep improving.
OT Tyler Polumbus, Broncos – Versatile tackle with the ability to play on either side, but his lack of size (302 pounds) restricts Polumbus to zone-blocking schemes. That could make him a good fit for the Bears and new OC Dowell Loggains who is rumored to prefer a zone-blocking run scheme which favors mobility over brute strength in it’s O-linemen. With Long and Leno as the probable starters outside, the 30-year-old Polumbus could fill the valuable swing tackle role on the cheap.