Chicago Bears Free Agents: Who Will Return in 2016? Part Two (Offense)
When the Chicago Bears management look at the offensive side of free agency, they have an interesting problem. The have two marquee players, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte, to contend with but also three other wide receivers and two tight ends could hit the open market. Toss in three offensive lineman and another experienced running back, Ryan Pace will have a real balancing act.
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This will be the priority for Ryan Pace. The challenge is Jeffery was injured most of the season so setting a value will be difficult. Some think he is near elite status but he has not proven that yet. Is he a game changer or merely a good WR? If the Bears let him hit the open market, he will get over valued quickly and that might be an albatross in the making. If I was the GM, I would make a respectable 3/4 year offer equal the average of the 5th-10th WR’s in the league. If that get’s a snub, then franchise tag him. That would get Jeffery around $15M for the year, more than he is worth.
Then see what Kevin White does, how Jeffery performs and deal with it in 2017. Realistically, Alshon Jeffery will be in a Bears’ uniform for 2016.
This one is trickier. No one can deny, Matt is heading to the backside of his career. No one knows is that one, two or three years. The reality his heavy pay day’s are over. Most suggest he be offered a Frank Gore style deal of three years at $4M. It is a respectable offer and in line what the better over 30 running backs are getting. The other question is how much demand is there for Forte? If he leaves the Bears he wont’t be a starter, but part of a rotation, much like what he will face in Chicago. This one is 50/50 right now, but if Forte is gone, I have full faith in Langford/Carey and the others.
Montgomery was doing a fine job at C until he broke his leg. Horniss Grasu, who was never supposed to play in 2016 was pressed into service along with Matt Slauson. Will’s salary was under a $1M and can see him easily re-signed for about the same money. I still think Grasu is the future but needs time.
Vladimir Ducasse, Patrick Omameh and Nick Becton
Omameh and Becton are restricted free agents and see them being re-signed. Omameh did an adequate job at G, in fact, he played better at LG than RG. Becton never really saw any time, so the team needs to decide does he have the ability to add depth. Now in regards to Ducasse, this will get interesting. He is a good run blocker but terrible at pass protection. Ducasse was not expensive at $825,000 and not sure any other team would be interested. I suspect he will be re-signed but he is at that stage of make it or break it. The real indicator here is what does Pace do in UDFA and the draft. Omameh is back the other two a toss up.
A solid short yardage running back, showed flashes then got injured. Probably could be re-signed on the cheap and gives depth, especially if Forte leaves. Probably back on a one year minimum prove it deal.
Zach Miller and Rob Housler
The key one here is Zach Miller. He overcame his injury bug and turned in a remarkable season. He played so well, you almost forgot about Martellus Bennett. Yes, Miller doesn’t block well but seems a better route runner than Bennett. Pace will pay Zach to stay since Bennett’s future seems cloudy. Housler, is interesting from a depth perspective and probably will be back.
Marc Mariani, Josh Bellamy and Deonte Thompson
This group turned out to be Jay Cutler‘s WR corp down the stretch. Bellamy and Thompson are restricted free agents and I can see the Bears keeping them. Thompson showed well as a kick returner but he also did well as a WR. He didn’t get a lot of opportunities but when he did he looked good. I like Josh Bellamy and at times he looked like a solid WR2. Other times he looked lost. He is another special teamer and adds depth at WR.
Now to Mariani. He is a shaky punt returner and many fans expected (or wanted) him cut. That was until he was pressed in playing WR. Suddenly he became the most dependable WR, especially when getting open for first downs. You could see a good QB-WR relationship building with Cutler and the trust was there. Marc was paid next to nothing last season, and see no reason not to re-sign him. With Royal (and Jeffery) injury prone, not sure how White will pan out, I can see Ryan Pace re-signing all three. All are good special team players and at worst give solid depth at WR.
The last question mark is do they keep Jermon Bushrod? With Leno and Long at tackles, he becomes an expensive swing tackle. The issue is though, who else is there for depth? Untried Becton? Unless something happens in UDFA or the draft, you have to believe they keep Bushrod for one more year as insurance. Expensive premium but worth it if something goes wrong at tackle.