None of these guys are sure bets, but they shouldn’t cost much. They may have injury baggage or low production but the potential is there. The Bears hit on a player in this category last year with Tracy Porter. They missed with Alan Ball.
Tyvon Branch, S, Kansas City
Pros: Had a really strong finish, playing a lot for the Chiefs over the second half of last season. Has been a good player for most of his career, registering more than 70 tackles four times. Vic Fangio has had a lot of luck getting the most out of safeties. Branch won’t turn 30 until next December.
Cons: Played a combined five games in 2013 and 2014. Doesn’t have the kind of ball skills the Bears need with just five career interceptions. Was destroyed by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last year. Might just be a rotational safety at this point in his career.
Jermaine Kearse, WR, Seattle
Pros: Good hands, athletic, solid after the catch and a good run-blocker. Only 25 and has never really been featured, playing for a running team. Has played well in a number of very big games.
These are the guys to watch. In his postseason presser, Ryan Pace said the team wasn’t going to spent big on one guy, instead spreading their money out. That could mean multiple players from this tier.
Malik Jackson, DL, Denver
Pros: He gained much more recognition in the playoffs as one of the best pass rushing and run-stopping defensive linemen in the league. Jackson constantly drew double teams, freeing others up for sacks.
Cons: The draft figures to be strong along the defensive line this year and Jackson is likely looking for a big pay day — which could explain why the Broncos extended Derek Wolfe instead. With Eddie Golman already in place, the Bears could sign a significantly cheaper veteran and develop linemen behind him.
Jaye Howard, DL, Kansas City
Pros: A good athlete who is really tough against the run. Showed some pass-rush ability. Dominated Vlad Ducasse and Hroniss Grasu. Would immediately be the team’s second best defensive lineman.
Cons: Kind of a one-year wonder. Played less than half of his team’s snaps every other year. Kansas City usually took him off the field in passing situations. Committed eight penalties last year. If Jackson and Wilkerson get huge contracts, Howard’s price could be driven up. The question needs to be asked again: Do you pay for a player, or draft and develop behind him?
Danny Trevathan, LB, Denver
Pros: Instinctive and rangy, Trevathan has been a key to the Broncos defense this year after missing most of the 2014 season. He has excelled in coverage and shows really good instincts. Rated by Pro Football Focus as one of the best tacklers in the league.
The Bears showed last year they weren’t afraid to spend in free agency and the expectation is that they will again. The Denver Broncos are coming off of a Super Bowl win largely because of the contributions of free agents DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Emmanuel Sanders. The Bears have over $50 million to spend in free agency and could have close to $70 million after cuts.
Here is part one of a three-part series examining potential targets on the free agency market.
This is a small list because great players don’t reach free agency very often. In fact, it’s unlikely any of these three players will make it, but until they’re officially not available, they have to be on the list. These are the guys a team can build their defense around. Of course the con for all of them is the price, but you pay a premium for premium players.
Von Miller, LB, Denver
Pros: Miller is one of the best defensive players in the league. As he showed in the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl, Miller can completely dominate with the best combination of speed and power in the league.
The game will be dissected all across the board for weeks. Here are just a few quick thoughts.
#1. I have no doubt Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware will get to Cam Newton. But what happens when they get there? Newton ain’t Tom Brady. He’s more likely to throw Miller to the ground than be sacked by him.
#2. What happens if the Panthers offense struggles early? This is a team that hasn’t faced adversity a lot this season and certainly hasn’t faced a defense of this caliber. If Carolina doesn’t score on their first couple drives, do we see Cam Newton force things?
#3. One of the untold stories of the AFC title game was how many receivers Peyton Manning missed for big plays down the field. But the biggest stat of this game may be Manning’s interception total. Can he avoid the big mistake, especially in the middle of the field? If he does, the Broncos defense will keep the game close.
Carolina Panthers 24, Denver Broncos 20
These odds are courtesy of the great Jimmy Shapiro, who emails the world weekly with various odds.
How many times will “John Fox” be said during the Broadcast?
Over 1 (-140, 5/7)
Under 1 (EVEN, 1/1)
(Note: From kickoff to final whistle, halftime does not count.)
This seems like it might happen regularly during the broadcast but really why would it? Once the game begins, unless Fox is visible in the crowd, why would the announcers think to mention him? I’ll take the UNDER and feel safe with no worse than a push.
Will Peyton Manning announce his retirement in the postgame interview?
Yes +500 (5/1)
No -1000 (1/10)
You’re getting 5 to 1 odds on him doing it so you have to take YES. If the Broncos win and Peyton Manning is speaking to Jim Nantz on the stage in a sea of confetti, can’t you see him dropping a reference or two to his “last game”? I can. Don’t load up here but it’s worth the gamble.
How many times will Cam Newton do the Open Shirt Superman motion during the game?
Over 2.5 (EVEN, 1/1)
Under 2.5 (-140, 5/7)
(Note: From kickoff to final whistle, halftime does not count.)
• The fact that John Fox had a large say in drafting the roster and that he and his staff were responsible for developing the defensive talent on the Broncos should make you feel good. A lot has been written about them signing free agents from the Broncos, but they’re just as likely to try to draft the next Danny Trevathan, Brandon Marshall or Malik Jackson.
• The one thing to take from the playoffs as it pertains to the Bears is they just need more great players. Look at the big plays that have been made throughout the playoffs, they’ve typically come from each team’s best player. The Bears don’t have those guys. Getting them is the first step. The next step is getting them to play their best on the big stage.
• It’s too early to get overly excited about what the Bears “need” when it comes to the draft. A lot will change between now and then. As of this time last year, you wouldn’t have guessed the Bears would be taking Kevin White with the seventh pick with the duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Hell, you maybe didn’t even know who Kevin White was.
• Draft hype is too crazy right now. Noah Spence went from being a fringe first-round pick at best to being mocked in the top 10. He’s a talented player but he was going against a bunch of untalented offensive tackles at the Senior Bowl. That doesn’t tell us anything.
After the jump is a Q&A I did with Jeff Risdon. Risdon is an NFL and NFL Draft Writer at RealGM, an analyst for Draft Breakdown, works on air at ESPN 961 and is the editor for SideLionReport. He spent last week in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. He’s also Lions fan, but at least he’s not a Packers fan.