Now that San Diego has allowed Vincent Jackson to enter the open market next week, the Bears will no doubt make an effort to bring the 1-time pro bowl receiver to the windy city. The 6-4 241lb wide-out had one his best years as a pro in 2011 posting 60 receptions for 1106 yards, and 9 TDs. The last time the Bears signed a free-agent receiver (coming off a hot season) was Muhsin Muhammad back in 2005.
Though there may be some relative similarities in this scenario, there are some very acute differences. The Bears signed Muhammad after he'd just completed his 9th year in the NFL with Carolina at age 31. In his final year with the Panthers Muhammad posted 93 receptions for 1405 yards, and 16 TDs. The average shelf-life for a solid WR is usually about 10 years though there have been some exceptions along the way. Such players like Jerry Rice, Donald Driver, and Marvin Harris ( just to name a few) had the luxury of playing with "elite" franchise caliber QB's .
When Muhammad came to Chicago in 2005, his QB was rookie Kyle Orton who was filling in for the injured Rex Grossman. Jackson would be playing with Jay Cutler who at this point in his career is certainly becoming a rising star. Jackson is entering his 8th season as a pro (at age 29), and would certainly want to come to a team with a top-flight QB at the controls like Cutler. Other teams that may be in play (such as Washington, Oakland, and Tampa Bay) are not as set at the QB position as we are. Muhammad was 6-2, Vincent is a towering 6-5 and averages 17.5 yards per catch compared to Muhsin's career average of 13.3 (only 15.1 in his best year).
Top WR prospects in the draft like Justin Blackmon, and Kendall Wright will most likely be off the board when the Bears are on the clock. There has been some speculation about ND wide-out Michael Floyd, but he comes with some considerable baggage. Signing Jackson would allow Emery and his team to focus on another pressing need we have on the O-Line. The #1 pick should be used on obtaining a good OT. Some prospects have already emerged such as Mike Adams, Jonathan Martin, and Cordy Glenn. There are also a number of fine prospects at other positions of need as well (DT, DE, S, LB, and TE).
As I've stated before, signing Jackson would be a step in the right direction for the Bears which is probably why George McCaskey stated that "money would not be an issue" for Chicago in the free-agent market. It is also noteworthy to point out that Chicago will also spend their money wisely, and come up with a nice deal for RB Matt Forte. Franchising Forte (in my opinion) was probably a means to an end. The Bears needed time to see just much cap money they had available once they've measured the costs of other moves they need to make. So stay tuned.....
Tags: 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 NFL Free Agency, Bears At The WR Position, Bears Front Office, Bears Offense, Bears Offensive Line, Chicago Bear Football, GM Phil Emery, Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Muhsin Muhammad Signing In 2005, Vincent Jackson