The candle must be burning at both ends for Bears’ General Manager Jerry Angelo after a ferocious week of shaping the 2011 Bears roster. There’s nothing like trying to put a team together in a week’s time versus a period of months in a normal NFL offseason.
The week began slowly for the Bears as players that could have been helpful to the team were signing elsewhere and not even being approached by the Bears’ front office. When last Thursday arrived, the Bears made a surprising move by trading tight end Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers for a 2012 3rd round draft pick. Ultimately, the entire tight end core on the team was refurbished with Kellen Davis being the only tight end on the roster to return from last year’s team. They added free agent tight end Matt Spaeth to the mix and released Brandon Manumaleuna. With Olsen’s exit and the acquisition of Spaeth, the Bears clearly wanted to get bigger at the position.
On Friday, the Bears made an unpopular addition to some by signing former Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams to a one year contract. Williams has been labeled a bust by many after flaming out both in Detroit and Dallas. However, he did have a Pro Bowl season in 2006 with the Lions after catching 82 passes for 1,310 yards and seven touchdowns. That same season, current Bears’ offensive coordinator Mike Martz held the same position with Detroit and the Bears are counting on Martz to transform Williams back to his 2006 self. Williams is excited to join forces with Martz again as well as wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, whom he played for in college…
“To be back with Martz, and Coach Drake, you know, it’s a blessing for me,” Williams said on Saturday. “To go to a system that I already know, that I had success in. It was a pretty easy decision.”
When asked about his failures to produce in Dallas, he concluded it was because he wasn’t playing in Martz’s system that led to him putting up poor numbers during his time with the Cowboys.
“I have a role on this football team. I don’t know what it is. Come Thursday, we’ll see what happens,” Williams said.
Bet on Williams being the number one wide receiver on the depth chart if the Bears decide later not to attain a big name player to the position.
The Bears also agreed to terms with two other former Cowboys players, wide receiver Sam Hurd and runningback Marion Barber. Barber is a hard runner and is expected to be the goal line runningback. His acquisition should automatically improve the Bears’ ground game in the red zone, an area that’s been problematic for the team in the last couple of seasons.
Defensive tackle Vernon Gholston was also signed to help improve the defensive line. Gholston is another player who’s been labeled a bust, not living up to expectations with the New York Jets for the past three seasons. Gholston played in a 4-3 defense in college and excelled in that system. When he was drafted by the Jets, he was asked to play in a 3-4 defense and was moved back and forth from defensive end and linebacker. At the end of the day, Gholston had difficulties adjusting…
“As you go through your career, you look for consistency, and that’s what hasn’t been there for me. One year one coach, another year, another coach,” Gholston said. “I had about three [position] coaches.”
“To become a good player, you need to find something you can hang your hat on, something you can put your foot in the ground and say, ‘This is what I do well.’ That’s what I haven’t found yet.”
The Bears play a similar defense to what Gholston was accustomed to in college. Hopefully coming into a system that he’s familiar with, and has had success with, he’ll be able to rejuvenate his career.
As for the departures from the Bears roster, the team decided to part ways with longtime punter Brad Maynard and signed former Jacksonville Jaguars punter Adam Podlesh to a five year contract.
A pending departure is the likely loss of center Olin Kreutz. It’s hard to fathom that Angelo wouldn’t agree to sign Kreutz at all costs because of the production, or lack thereof, that was displayed by the offensive line last year. If there is anything negative to take from the roster moves the Bears have made this week, it has to be their disregard of improving the worst offensive line in the NFL a year ago. Aside from signing their top draft pick, offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, the team pretty much has the same offensive line from last season….minus Kreutz, which could prove to be even more devastating. The word on the street is that Kreutz is probably done in Chicago and that was later confirmed by Kreutz’s agent, Mark Bartlestein…
“He’s always wanted to make a deal with the Bears. But right now, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen,” said Bartlestein.
There’s no doubt the Kreutz is getting old and the Bears should part ways with him if they found a better option. The problem here is that there isn’t a better option available at the center position in the free agent pool. Because of this, it was crucial for Angelo to bring Kreutz back and now it seems as if he’s failed to do so. These turn of events have led to Roberto Garza being asked to switch from right guard to center.
You can’t predict the starting lineups during the first week of training camp but don’t be surprised if Garza, J’Marcus Webb, Lance Louis, Chris Williams and Gabe Carimi are your starters on the offensive line come Week 1 against Atlanta. Only one new addition to the line may not cut it.
Despite the issues with the offensive line, the Bears have been fully active this past week in the free agent market. Only time will tell which players make the most impact.