Tuesday free agency officially opens and the Chicago Bears will have the opportunity to purchase some on-field human talent. They have a dangerous combination when it comes to March in the NFL: money to spend & many roster holes. But for new GM Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox, prudence is the name of the game. (It would also be the name of the worst-selling board game in the history of Toys R Us.)
STAY AWAY FROM THE THIRTY MARK
Teams signing free agents over the age of 30 should be one or two players away from making a realistic run for a championship. The Bears are not one or two players away from making a realistic run to the grocery store. Someone mentioned to me on Twitter that he believed the 2015 Bears have a puncher’s chance to win the NFC North. They do, if the punch is landed squarely on the ACL of Aaron Rodgers.
The Bears have struggled to field two competent safeties since the partnership of Mike Brown and Tony Parrish dissolved. 2014 did not feature many standout performances in the secondary but one promising development was Ryan Mundy looking capable. Does this mean Mundy should be a starter in September? Not necessarily. But it might mean the Bears can win with Mundy on the field. And that is something I never thought I’d write.
Devin McCourty (28 when next season starts) is the crown jewel of this class. In a division with Aaron Rodgers having a safety with McCourty’s cover skills is not only an advantage but a necessity. Rahim Moore (25) is still entrenched in my mind for making one of the worst defensive plays in the history of the sport but he’s turned into a versatile safety who may have his best football ahead of him. (And John Fox would know far better than me.) Da’Norris Searcy (26) plays with the aggression of a box safety and is well-equipped to handle physical tight ends and slot receivers.
With the draft light at safety, look for the Bears to be focused on the position. And none of these men mentioned above would hit the 30 mark until (at earliest) the third year of their four-year contract.
DON’T PAY RUSHERS & RECEIVERS
Listen. Do I want the Bears to sign Jerry Hughes? Of course. I have wanted the Bears to field a player named Hughes since I was two years old. I’d buy the jersey the second the contract ink dried. Hell, I’d probably buy two and frame the second one in my office.
But Jerry Hughes is an edge rusher and I’ve always been wary of signing two positions to big money contracts: edge rusher and wide receiver.
There are many reasons that feels particularly true this off-season. (1) The Bears will be able to select a top tier edge rusher in the first round of the draft. I really think Gregory, Beasely and Ray will all be solid pros. (2) The Bears have some veteran talent on the edge that finished them in the top half of the league in sacks in 2014. I understand the scheme is changing but are we sure Jared Allen can’t get 7-10 sacks as a stand-up rusher? Why can’t Willie Young stand up and be productive? (3) At receiver the Bears have Alshon Jeffery and he’s going to cost a fortune. (4) The wide receiver draft class is talented and deep.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE BORING
If the Bears don’t sign a player this week, would that really be a bad thing? Actually, why not make that a poll question?