After years of overall abysmal off-seasons, Bears’ new GM Phil Emery has taken huge steps in the right direction. He kicked things off with a bang, bringing in Brandon Marshall and a number of key contributors to add depth. He rounded things off by selecting what initially appears to be a solid Draft class.
Here are my off-season grades . . .
Even though Brandon Marshall was acquired via trade, I’ll include it in the Free Agency category. That move right off the bat put the Bears in immediate title contention. Marshall makes everyone on the offensive side of the ball better. Period.
The acquisition of Free Agent RB Michael Bush was another important move. Forte, signed or not, is not a good short yardage back. He tends to gets disabled at the one-yard line—like playing a cheating video game!—and doesn’t have the power to move the pile.
Bush and Marshall automatically give the Bears a much improved and more dynamic redzone offense—something they desperately needed. And, in the event that Matt Forte holds out, Bush is a more-than-capable starter in the NFL.
Even the less flashy additions, like picking up LB Geno Hayes for example, were solid moves. Forgetting the roster for a second, the move to bring in Jermey Bates as QB coach should also not be discounted.
And, keep your fingers crossed, but should Jay Cutler go down again at any point during the season, Jason Campbell is probably the most talented backup QB in the NFL.
Placing the tag on Matt Forte was also a smart Free Agency move many don’t consider, as it was expected. The continued commitment to special teams by acquiring top performers in Eric Weems, Devin Thomas and Blake Costanzo is another positive.
The additions of Jonathan Wilhite and Kelvin Hayden to the DB roster may not be noticeably impactful, but they tell us that at the very least Phil Emery was looking at the same roster you and I have been, and that he knows competition and added depth in this secondary is a good thing.
Overall Grade: A-
The grade would have been an A for me, but the lack of added competition along the offensive line, particularly at tackle, is disconcerting. Emery did bring in G Chilo Rachal, but he doesn’t appear an upgrade over any of the Bears current guards (at least initially).
But tackle is the real concern and ANYONE would be an upgrade over J’Marcus Webb on the left side. The grade slips only by a half a step simply because the group of capable and available left tackles was virtually non-existent.
So . . . the draft wasn't as exciting as free agency. Admitted. Picking a guy none of us had ever heard of in round-one almost made it feel like Jerry Angelo was driving the bus again. I think Shea McClellin can be a contributor; I think he’s a solid football player; and I think he is versatile. How that will work out in 2012, we don’t know.
It was a pleasant surprise (and kind of a bounce-back from round-one) to see the Bears trade up and nab Alshon Jeffery in the second-round. In mine—and many others’—opinions, he had the best hands in the Draft. And if he stays in shape, I believe he could have the most upside and potential.
Following the seemingly great pick in Jeffery, comes another Angelo-esque pick: safety Brandon Hardin in the third-round. Fourth safety in four years. I don’t know about you guys, but I have safety-fatigue (it is a medical condition, I checked). In my opinion, this guy is Adam Archuleta 2.0. But I am probably jumping the gun.
I won’t get in to grading a Draft based on fourth- through seventh-round crap-shoots. Your first- through third-rounders are the guys you hope will make an immediate impact. If they’ve found a gem in the late rounds, we’ll find out. And we’ll save that for a Draft re-grade post in two years.
Overall Grade: B-
Again, the lack of offensive linemen selected is a large factor. I believe they got a great player in Alshon Jeffery and maybe a year-one contributor with McClellin. But overall, the disregard along the offensive line still makes me scratch my head.
So far, the Bears arrow has sky rocketed up to the top of the Division. They now have the best chance to unseat the Packers as division champs, thanks to Phil Emery. That alone is deserving of praise.