This is the second part of an in-depth series that will examine the status of the top Chicago Bears free agents. The defense and special teams will be the focus in this second part.
The Bears have been busy as of late, signing ten of their own free agents since the end of the 2013 season, including center Roberto Garza, tight end Dante Rosario, cornerback Kelvin Hayden and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff all in the past week.
On Thursday, we took a look at outside linebacker James Anderson’s future in Chicago. Today, we examine the status of three key special teams contributors, Craig Steltz, Blake Costanzo and Sherrick McManis.
Who: Safety Craig Steltz, linebacker Blake Costanzo and cornerback Sherrick McManis
2013 contracts: Steltz (765,000), Costanzo ($740,000), McManis ($630,000)
These three players made their main contributions on Joe DeCamillis’ special teams unit last season.
The 27-year-old Steltz appeared in all 16 games, making one start. The 2008 fourth-round pick out of LSU finished the season with 14 tackles and one pass breakup on defense, while adding a second-best 14 tackles on special teams.
He took the field for 110 defensive snaps and 259 special teams plays. 89 of Steltz’s defensive snaps came in a Week 13 loss against the Vikings, when he posted a team-high 12 tackles.
Steltz has quietly been a steady backup safety when his number is called, while his value on special teams has remained very high. He’s certainly a guy that the Bears would like to keep in the mix.
Another talent on special teams is 29-year-old Costanzo, who signed with the Bears during the 2012 off-season after carving out a key role with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011.
The Lafayette product finished 2013 with a team-high 17 special teams tackles along with one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 16 games. He made two tackles in seven defense snaps, while playing on 321 special teams snaps.
According to ESPNChicago.com, the Bears haven’t contacted Costanzo about a new contract and it seems as if 49ers fans are pushing hard for his return to San Francisco in 2014 via Twitter.
The last free-agent of this trio is McManis, who came over to the Bears in a trade with Houston for fullback Tyler Clutts in 2012. A 2010 fifth-round pick out of Northwestern, McManis has been solid on special teams coverage the past two seasons.
The 26-year-old appeared in 15 games last season adding 10 special teams tackles on 209 special teams snaps. He also played on 12 defensive snaps, where he generated one pass deflection.
McManis could compete for more snaps at cornerback this upcoming season with the possible departures of free-agent veterans Charles Tillman and Zackary Bowman. McManis deserves a pay raise from the Bears, who regrettably let special teams star Corey Graham walk via free agency two seasons ago.
Should be back
Craig Steltz – The Bears and Steltz suit each other as he provides solid depth in the secondary and performs well on special teams. He fits the team well with his demeanor in the locker room also becasue of his leadership with the younger core. A deal should be hammered out during the first two weeks of free agency.
Sherrick McManis – With depth lacking at cornerback and the Bears only looking to improve on a shaky performance overall on special teams a year ago, McManis’s return makes too much sense. Just like Steltz, he has a knack for making plays on special teams and can contribute defensively as well.
Likely won’t be back
Blake Costanzo – Costanzo received a $400,000 signing bonus from the Bears when he signed his two-year deal in 2012, but he won’t be getting that kind of cash from this off-season. He still has plenty of value as a special teams standout, but the Bears can find a cheaper and younger replacement. A reunion to San Francisco could be in the works.
Up Next: Cornerback Zackary Bowman
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