Chicago Bears 2011 Free Agency Notes, Depth Chart Projections
The Chicago Bears have made some shocking, questionable and solid moves since this 2011 NFL Free Agency frenzy kicked into swing. The team has added seven new free agents and five of their own, along with 36 undrafted prospects to training camp.
Here’s a quick breakdown of many of the key moves and what the depth chart could look like for the upcoming regular season opener against the Atlanta Falcons on September 11th.
Quarterback: Chicago brought back Caleb Hanie last Friday on a one-year deal worth over $1 million. Hanie made a name for himself in the NFC Championship last January. Projected Depth Chart: Jay Cutler, Caleb Hanie, Nathan Enderle
Running Back: Ex-Cowboys veteran and powerful runner Marion Barber signed a two-year, $5 million contract on Saturday. Exclusive rights free agent Kahlil Bell returned on a one-year deal worth under $500,000. Chester Taylor had a disappointing season last year, but the bulk of the cash in his contract was paid last season, so he isn’t a big cap hit in 2011. Projected Depth Chart: Matt Forte, Marion Barber, Chester Taylor, Kahlil Bell/Harvey Unga
Wide Receiver: The Bears found two former Cowboys receivers before Barber in Sam Hurd and Roy Williams. Hurd signed a three-year contract worth $5.15 million and Williams inked a $1.5 million deal for one season. However,Rashied Davis, a fan favorite, left for division rival Detroit. Projected Depth Chart: Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett, Roy Williams, Devin Hester, Sam Hurd, Andy Fantuz
Tight End: The Bears traded away former first-round pick Greg Olsen to Carolina in exchange of a third-round selection in next years’ draft. Disappointing Brandon Manumaleuna was released as well. Matt Spaeth was brought in for blocking purposes. Projected Depth Chart: Matt Spaeth, Kellen Davis, Andre Smith (UFA)
Offensive Line: Chicago ended the Olin Kreutz era by refusing to give him the contract he desired. As a result, Kreutz will likely retire. Veteran Chris Spencer recently became his repleacement. Also, guard Edwin Williams was re-signed to a one-year deal. The Bears could be in the market for a veteran guard or tackle before the good ones are all signed. Projected Depth Chart: LT J’Marcus Webb, LG Chris Williams, C Chris Spencer, RG Roberto Garza, RT Gabe Carimi and swing tackle/guard Frank Ominyale
Defensive Line: Veteran Anthony Adams was re-singed on a new two-year contract. Two former top 10 selections in Vernon Gholston, who’s widely considered a certifiable draft bust, and Amobi Okoye, who was thought to not be a good fit for the Texans’ new 3-4 scheme, signed one-year deals as well. Defensive Line Depth Chart: DE Julius Peppers, DT Anthony Adams, DT Henry Melton, DE Israel Idonije
Linebacker: Pisa Tinoisamoa could be receiving a call soon from the front office to come back because the Bears currently only have five linebackers and they typically prefer to have six. Nick Roach signed a two-year, $4.5 million deal and Brian Iwuh returns on a one-year contract worth $630,000. Both are good players. Roach will likely start at strongside linebacker. Iwuh looks to backup Lance Briggs on the weakside and excel on special teams. Projected Depth Chart: Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Nick Roach
Cornerback: Corey Graham was the leader on special teams last season. He re-signed a one-year deal, but will have to earn playing time at corner because a number of players sit ahead of him on the depth chart. Projected Depth Chart: Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, D.J. Moore
Safety: The Bears haven’t made a move in free agency for a safety yet. They let Danieal Manning flea to Houston, where he received a four-year deal worth $20 million. A veteran safety could be brought into the mix in the coming days. Projected Safety Depth Chart: FS Major Wright, SS Chris Harris
Kicker/Punter: 37-year-old punter Brad Maynard got the boot. Kicker Robbie Gould and long-snapper Pat Mannelly weren’t too pleased about that, but Maynard simply has declined his level of play over the years. Former Jaguar Adam Podlesh was added to the mix last Thursday when he signed a five-year deal worth $10 million. Projected Depth Chart: K Robbie Gould, P Adam Podlesh.
Thoughts On Bears Free Agency Thus Far:
I like what the Bears have done so far. They brought a big powerful running back, Barber into the fold to help out in goal-line situations. They added two tall receivers in Williams and Hurd, they might not be the best, but they will excel in Martz’s system. They also brought in a real blocking tight end in Matt Spaeth.
They replaced aging Olin Kreutz, with 29-year old Chris Spencer, who started a lot of games in Seattle. They added two young defensive linemen Vernon Gholston and Amobi Okoye who have been disappointing so far in their careers, but will likely become much more motivated under coach Rod Marinelli. They also brought back veteran defensive tackle Anthony Adams, who anchors the tackles on the line.
They re-signed Nick Roach, who will finally get his chance to be the starter from the beginning of the season. The brought back Brian Iwuh and Corey Graham, both players are fantastic on special teams and are capable backups for the Bears. The landed a new punter, who was fifth in the league in net yards in Adam Podlesh.
Overall, the Bears have done a nice job this off-season. They made some tough decisions by letting leader and warrior Olin Kreutz go, trading tight end Greg Olsen away and letting fan favorite Rashied Davis go to the division rival Detroit Lions. But sometimes tough decisions pay off.
In my mind, the Bears are rising right now, they might not have made the flashy moves that some teams have made this off-season. Some say the Eagles are the free agent winners, and they deserved to be crowned as that, but the Bears have made some solid moves to fit the needs of their team.
I wouldn’t count Danieal Manning not being brought back as a tough decision because the decision to let him walk away in free agency was made a while ago.
The Bears will likely make a couple more moves before their first pre-season game against the Buffalo Bills on August 13th. A veteran safety and veteran offensive lineman will likely be brought in. Pisa Tinoisamoa could be brought back if the Bears believe he is healthy.
Don’t be upset Bears fans, this will be an improved ball club this upcoming season even though you might not believe so right now.
Keep reading Bearsbacker.com for more information on each Bears signing.
For more news on Twitter, follow @Bearsbacker.