Chicago Bears Free Agency News & Rumors – Day 2

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports /

Bears Day 2 Rumors

1.) Slot-receiver / return man Marc Mariani was considered by most a lock to be back with the Bears this year, but he reportedly has offers from both the Raiders and 49ers. Neither team has the wide receiver depth that the Bears do, so Mariani may be tempted to jump ship for the opportunity to get a few more offensive snaps.

Mariani surprisingly became one of Jay Cutler’s most reliable receiving options late in the season when the Bears starting WRs were all out with injury. Coming into the last game of the season, all but two of Mariani’s 21 catches resulted in first downs. On the season he finished with 27 catches for 324 yards and developed an obvious rapport with QB Jay Cutler.

With a healthy receiving core Mariani is probably the 5th receiver on the Bears depth chart at best, but he also provides value with the ability to return both kicks and punts. I was impressed with Mariani’s toughness, route-running skills, and willingness to give max effort to get first downs when needed. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mariani leaves town for more playing time, but I hope the Bears hold on to him in 2016.

2.) The rumor persists that the Bears are trying to trade TE Martellus Bennett. It’s too bad they didn’t try to trade him after his Pro Bowl 2014 season, but Bennett was not the same player in 2015. He held out in training camp hoping for more money, played inconsistently throughout the season, and then was put on the injured reserve late in the season due to an injury that many analysts thought was fictional.

A trade of Bennett and the still pending free agency of Zach Miller would leave the Bears with very little talent at tight end, but they are planning ahead by bringing in TE Jermaine Gresham today for a meeting. Gresham is a poor man’s Bennett with similar size (6’5, 261), slightly better speed coming out of college (0.02 faster), good hands and similar 1st-2nd round draft grade coming out of college.

There have a few differences in that Gresham has had serious injuries in both college (knee) and the pros (back) while Bennett’s injuries have been minor. Gresham also isn’t a potential mental patient which gives him a slight edge over Bennett in that department.

Bennett’s 2014 season (90 catches, 916 yards, 6 TDs) is considerably better than anything Gresham has put up, but disregarding last season since they were both hurt, Gresham has averaged 5 more catches, a couple more yards, and 2 more TDs per season over the last five years than Bennett. Gresham is also two years younger, not crazy, and would be happy to play for the Bears at a reasonable contract for much less than what Bennett will want. A Zach Miller and Jermaine Gresham combo would be stress-free and potentially more productive than keeping Bennett.

One more note on Bennett is that there are rumors that the Packers are discussing a trade for Bennett with the Bears. As much as I would love to see the Bears get a mid round pick for Bennett, I’m terrified of Bennett catching passes from Aaron Rodgers against the Bears twice a year.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

3.) The Bears have scheduled a meeting with DE Akiem Hicks at Halas Hall on Friday. Hicks was on my d-line wish list and is arguably the best, young 5-tech d-linemen left in the free agent pool. Hicks was actually Pace’s first draft pick after being promoted to the director of player personnel with the Saints in 2012. GM Adam Pace was high on Hicks back then and with a glaring need for the Bears at DE, Hicks seems like a perfect fit and Pace seems to still be interested.

4.) Free agent Bears G Vladimir Ducasse is a free agent and visited the Ravens today. Ducasse and his two false-start penalties per game won’t be missed. Good riddance!

5.) Former Bears LT Jermon Bushrod was signed to a one-year deal by the Dolphins today. Bushrod was a solid Bear in all aspects but injuries to his back and shoulder kept him on the bench this year and he eventually lost his job to Charles Leno Jr. I wish Bushrod the best of luck in Miami and hope he can get healthy enough to get his career back on track.

6.) In NFC North two guys from my free agent wish lists were signed by their original teams. The Lions made a few signings, but bringing back LB Tahir Whitehead was by far the most important one. The Packers, as usual, brought back one of their own picks in in OLB Nick Perry for a 1-year $5M deal. It’s a bit of a surprise considering that Perry started only one game last year and seemed to be in DC Dom Capers dog-house most of the season. I had targeted Perry as a possible edge rusher for the Bears but that option is gone now after the Packers locked him down for another season.

7.) One of my favorite DE targets for the Bears, 27-year-old Cedric Thornton, signed a 4-year, $18M deal with the Cowboys today. Oh well. Can’t win em all.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

8.) Finally, my favorite free agent target for the Bears, S Eric Weddle, has four offers but no word yet if the Bears are one of them. It seems to me that a veteran safety would really help the Bears D, but they have yet to be officially interested in Weddle. He’s oldish, 30, but has made the first or second All-Pro team for five years in a row. Weddle isn’t looking for a long-term deal and the Bears have money to spend. It makes perfect sense to me to sign Weddle to a short-term deal as a veteran to teach Adrian Amos the ropes, but I have yet to hear one rumor about the Bears being interested. Hopefully that changes soon. Another year of Antrel Rolle starting at safety won’t be good for anyone, especially supposed building-block Adrian Amos.