As we hit day nine of NFL free agency and inch closer to the 2015 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears have put in work.
While some may not think it is enough, they have picked up five players thus far; four of which will be day one starters and one for camp depth. Trust me, I get the anxiousness, but there is a method to Ryan Pace’s madness.
That said, there are still needs to be addressed. The Bears have about $15M in available cap space and about $6M of that will go to the rookie class. With around $9M to spend, odds are they will not be making the splashes that you were hoping for at this point. However, with that number a few reasonable signings can still be made along with some possible ‘prove it’ deals. And do not sleep on the possibility of releases or trades just yet either. I am sure there is still a shopping list.
Here are some options:
Matt Moore (Dolphins)
With the signing of Jimmy Clausen, this position may best be addressed in the draft. But Moore is a very solid backup who has experience with John Fox. If he is willing to sign on the cheap, it is definitely worth exploring.
Running Back / Fullback:
Knowshon Moreno (Broncos) & John Conner (Jets)
Moreno also has experience with John Fox. He has had a bit of a rocky career, but is still only 27, and would bring a different element to the backfield. Odds are he could be signed on a ‘prove it’ deal, and would be great for additional competition in training camp. Conner is worth taking a look at for fullback. Gase does not usually use a traditional fullback, but Forte has always performed well with one leading the way. If they truly want to beef up the running game, this option should be on the table.
Hakeem Nicks (Colts)
There are not a ton of great WR options out there, but Nicks still has something left in the tank. He has not had a ton of interest in free agency so far, and he would give Gase another wrinkle to throw into the passing game. Nicks is also one of the better blocking receivers available.
Robert Housler (Cardinals)
The Bears have an obvious need for a blocking tight end in Gase’s offense, but they will most likely find that in the latter rounds of the draft. It would not hurt to throw another vertical threat into the mix. Housler has good size and speed, and could create mismatch problems galore with Bennett, Jeffrey and Royal on the field.
Eben Britton (Bears)
There are a few no names out there, but the Bears should take a good look at one of their own. Britton has played well when thrown into action, and has the versatility to play in multiple spots. He would be an extremely affordable option for depth.
Stefen Wisniewski (Raiders) and Brian De La Puente (Bears)
It sounds like the Bears have been in on the Wisniewski sweepstakes, but there has been competition. All has been quiet for a few days, so not sure where they are at this point. De La Puente played some pretty good ball when used last year. He is also very good on the move, and the Bears will need someone who can get to the next level in the more zone oriented blocking scheme. Either one would be an improvement, and both would be even better for depth.
Defensive End / 5-Technique
Jarvis Jenkins (Redskins)
Jenkins played extremely well in mixed fronts coming out of Clemson, but has had injury and off the field problems since coming into the league. He is still only 26, and has the potential to be effective at the end in a 3-4 front. Coming into a Fox led locker room and playing with Ratliff would only further benefit his potential.
Kenrick Ellis (Jets)
Ellis is more of the big body, run-stuffer that the Bears could use in the middle of the defense. He has not been amazing for the Jets by any means, but he is solid against the run and keeping the blockers off the linebackers at the next level. He should not be expensive at this point in his career and free agency.
Geno Hayes (Jaguars), Mason Foster (Buccaneers), Brandon Spikes (Bills) and Colin McCarthy (Titans)
Unless you are just waking up after the last several weeks, you know that Foster has been on the Bears radar. It sounds like they have been in negotiations since last week, but no one can be sure what is happening at this point. If they are unable to get a deal done, there are some other options to take a look at. Hayes and McCarthy both play a similar game to Foster, while Foster is stronger at the point of attack. Regardless, they would be nice options on the inside. Spikes has not gotten a lot of interest at this point, and it may be because teams consider him a two-down player. Well, if you have watched him play, the opposing team sure remembers those two downs. I would still love him lining up for the Bears.
Sherrick McManis (Bears) and Alan Ball (Jaguars)
If you look at the list of available cornerbacks, you are probably not getting warm fuzzies. McManis has looked pretty good in spot duty, and is a very solid special teams player. He also has the size Fangio likes in his corners. Ball has been up and down in his career, but is pretty darn good when up. He is a big corner who is not afraid to hit hard. At the very least, they would both bring better competition to the DB room.
Thomas DeCoud (Panthers)
As with the corners, there are not a ton of high-level safety options out there. DeCoud has played very well at times, and is still under 30. Fox is very familiar with him from time spent in the NFC South. DeCoud is also 6’2 and close to 200 pounds. Fangio could find ways to play with him.
Special Teams / Returner:
Leon Washington (Titans)
Special teams have been brutal for the Bears since Dave Toub left for Kansas City, and with that, comes the return game. They currently have Marc Mariani, who could still turn into a solid option. But it cannot hurt to add competition. I am sure they will grab someone in the draft who has the capability, but a veteran remains who is very good at it: Leon Washington. He would bring great veteran leadership to the special teams unit.
These are some people they should be taking a look at. Obviously, we are not going to see all of them signed, but the conversations should at least be had. I trust Pace will get it done.