Monday, February 15, 2016

Free Agents Bears Need To Keep In 2016


 The time of the year has come where football fans are watching their Twitter alerts, ticker bottom lines and checking the web every hour.  Its NFL free agency time.  Free agency begins March 9th at 4pm ET but teams can begin negotiations with UFAs beginning March 7th.  The Bears have dipped into the free agent market over the last few years and made a some splashes.  The free agent pool this year is a little shallow but does include players like Eric Weddle, Muhammad Wilkerson, Von Miller and Jason Pierre-Paul.  Despite the surprising improvement in the defense this past year the Bears still could use one, two or all of those players.  With the Bears' cap space expected to be over $55 million I hope the Bears do land more than 1 high profile free agent or there might be an uprising.  Despite the attractive pieces that can be added from outside there are a few key players that need to be re-signed by the Bears.

Alshon Jeffery

  This is a pretty obvious target for the Bears to re-sign.  Jeffery is the only proven piece of the Bears wide receivers and it would be a big gamble to let him go.  The Bears did draft Kevin White in the 1st round last year but he missed the entire year due to injury.  The worry is two tiered; will he come back the same and will this injury linger?  If either scenario comes to be the Bears are in same trouble as they were this year depending on Wilson, Mariani, Royal and other lesser talented wide outs.  I understand Jeffery comes with his own string of injuries and having him is no insurance policy for a White injury.  However, if healthy, it does give the Bears great size and an ideal pairing of WRs where one WR can take the top off and the other can run any route asked underneath and outside.

Unfortunately for the Bears the free agent WR crop is extremely thin and Jeffery will be the 1st target on all teams' radar.  This might push his price sky high.  Last year WRs like Dez Bryant, AJ Green and Julio Jones all got a contract in the 5 year for $70M range.  With the salary cap increase and the lack of talent at the WR position I expect Jeffery to end up in the 5yr for $85M range.  That does not account for the usual crazy GM that will overpay and drive prices out of reach for most teams.  Do I think the Bears need to sign Jeffery? Yes.  Do I think the Bears should break the bank to sign him? No.

CONTINGENCY PLAN:  Rishard Matthews (MIA): 6'/217lb, 43rec, 662yds, 4TDs; Travis Benjamin (CLE): 5' 10"/175lb, 68rec, 966yds, 5TDs; Marvin Jones (CIN): 6'2'/198lb, 65rec, 816yds, 4TDs; 

Shea McClellin

   This was the year McClellin was suppossed to break out.  He was in a 3-4 defense, he was off the line so his size wasn't a mismatch and he had a defensive coach that has groomed star LBs in the past.  None of that helped. Trust me I never thought I would be defending a re-signing of Shea McClellin but I can see some value in him. He is definitely not a starting LB in the NFL but his speed and athleticism can be used in the special teams game.  If McClellin gets relieved of all the responsibility that comes with being a starting LB and just concentrate on being a "special teams ace" he may be able to thrive.  I know Bear fans remember Brendon Ayanbadejo and I think this is where McClellin can find his niche in the NFL.  Of course, this contract would have to come at the right price.  A contract in the range of $1.5-$2M/yr is fair for a core special teamer.  The Bears gave up a shade over 25 yards per KO return and were the only team to allow more than 1 return TD last year.  They need to improve the talent there and McClellin should end up leading this crew.  The Bears  must find a starting ILB via the draft or free agency and find a solid backup/special teamer if they dont sign McClellin to fill that role.

 CONTINGENCY PLAN: Zach Brown (TEN): 6'1"/241lb, 77Tck, .5Sck, 2Int; Sean Spence (PIT): 5'11"/231lb, 37Tck, 1Sck, 3TFL,  Craig Robertson (CLE): 6'1"/234lb, 59Tck, 2TFL, 1 Int

Alan Ball & Tracy Porter

  The Bears' pass defense was a pleasant surprise this year.  The unit did well in limiting the yards given up but fell short when it came to keeping teams out of the end zone and creating turnovers.  Neither Ball nor Porter are top tier CBs and this is reflected by their very poor ratings by  The Bears will probably have to look to free agency for a starting CB across from Fuller.  Lucky for the Bears there are a good amount starting caliber CBs  in the free agent pool this year, including Josh Norman.  The Bears will need as many hands in the secondary as possible with quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Teddy Bridgewater in their division.  So re-signing Ball and Porter in a nickel/dime role make perfect sense for the Bears at this point.  They provide a veteran presence in a young secondary and are good in run support.  Also, both are familiar in the system and should come at a reasonable price.  If the Bears sign a starting CB in free agency and retain Ball and Porter it would give the Bears a very experienced secondary with some insurance in case of injury.

CONTINGENCY PLAN: Jeremy Lane (SEA): 6'/190lb, 13Tck, 6PD, 2Int (6 games); Coty Sensabaugh (TEN): 5'11"/187lb, 60Tck, 8PD, 2Int;  Kyle Wilson (NO): 5'10"/190, 24Tck, 4PD, 1Int

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