The Bears have an agreement with outside linebacker Pernell McPhee in place and other names have been connected to the team prior to Tuesday afternoon’s official start of free agency.
General manager Ryan Pace and the Bears enter free agency with over $30 million in cap room after trading Brandon Marshall last Friday. With the signing of McPhee that number will be a little lower.
However, the Bears still have plenty of room to make a splash or two. Pace might wait for the first wave of players to sign, so he could land some deals with his targets.
The Bears are in rebuild mode there is no way around that fact. The defense needs some fresh talent at every position and the offense needs an identity.
The new coaching staff led by John Fox, offensive coordinator Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will get some time to do that.
Free agency is a nice time to add some players at key positions, but overspending can lead to a lot of problems down the road. Former general manager Phil Emery did that much too often in his three years in Chicago.
Between running back Michael Bush and defensive ends Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston, Emery handed them $37.5 million guaranteed money. Bush is out of the league and Allen and Houston are fresh off below average seasons.
“The recipe to winning Super Bowls is stringing successful drafts together again and again,” Pace said at his introduction presser on Jan. 9. “We are not just collecting athletes. We are acquiring football players that fit the Chicago Bears. There will be a major emphasis on character, toughness, instincts and intelligence.”
I can’t agree more with Pace with his mindset to turn this team around and help the Bears win.
Here are some names that have been linked to the Bears via free agency.
Defense: linebackers Brooks Reed, O’Brien Schofield, Mason Foster and Curtis Lofton; safeties Antrell Rolle and Da’Norris Searcy
Offense: center Stephen Wisniewski and tight end Virgil Green
Special Teams: long snapper Tanner Purdum
The Tribune’s Dan Wiederer lists Reed as a name to watch for the Bears even after the addition of McPhee. A 2011 second-round pick, Reed has played in 60 of 64 games, starting 52 of them in four seasons. He has 14.5 career sacks, including a career-high six during his rookie season. He matched that total over the last two years. Reed is as steady as they come and has experience playing weakside and SAM linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Pairing him with McPhee would be a nice boost to the second level of the Bears’ defense.
Even though he failed a physical due to “potential knee arthritis” last season after signing a two-year, $8 million deal with the Giants, Schofield still played all 16 games in 2014. The 27-year-old starred at North Chicago Community in Great Lakes recording 11 sacks as a senior. In five seasons, in the NFL, Schofield has been more of a rotational player, appearing in 66 games making 11 starts. He has 13.5 career sacks, including two last season in 317 defensive snaps. Wiederer also counts him as a player for the Bears even though Schofield wouldn’t be a full-time starter. He would be a cheaper option compared to Reed.
Foster could be a nice addition at inside linebacker and ESPN Chicago’s Michael C. Wright said that the Bears have had interest in the 26-year-old for a while now. The former third-round pick struggled to adapt to Lovie Smith’s defensive scheme as he battled shoulder and Achilles injuries in 2014. He appeared in only 10 games after starting in 44 the previous three seasons. At 100 percent, Foster is a nice player, but it could be a strange move with a younger and similar player in Jon Bostic already on the roster. The Bears might be better off drafting a middle linebacker rather than signing a player like Foster.
A seven-year veteran, Lofton recorded 144 tackles in 2014, the second-best total of his career. He was released by New Orleans on Monday after three seasons there. It was reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that Lofton is recovering from a shoulder scope, but will be ready for OTA’s. Lofton was a leader on and off the field with the Saints and previously with the Falcons. He would be a nice addition to a Bears’ linebacking core that lacks a legitimate inside man.
A three-time Pro Bowler, Rolle is now 32 and is more of an in-the-box and run-stopping safety at this stage of his career according to ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson. Rolle signed a five-year, $37 million deal with the Giants back in 2010 which turns out to be exactly $10 million less than Devin McCourty’s deal with Patriots. He didn’t miss a single start in five seasons in New York and has been playing safety ever since Arizona converted him to one in 2008. He has 26 career interceptions and could come at a relatively fair price. He would be an upgrade over the current safety tandem of Ryan Mundy and Brock Vereen.
The 26-year-old North Carolina product is entering free agency for the first time after playing in Buffalo his first four seasons in the league. Although, Searcy really only has one full season of starting experience, he is an up-and-coming player. He started 13 games in 2014, recording a career-high three interceptions, replacing former Bill Jarius Byrd. The 5-foot-11, 207-pound safety should be able to earn a long-term deal with a team in need. He would be a huge upgrade over what the Bears currently have and in my mind a better option than Rolle and most rookies in the draft.
Grabbing a solid center for a fair price seems out of the question after Oakland signed Rodney Hudson to a five-year, $44.5 million deal to replace Wisniewski. Roberto Garza will be 36 at the end of this month and struggled plenty at the point of attack last season. Wisniewski has started all 61 games he’s appeared in since entering the league in 2011 as a second-round selection from Penn State. The Tribune reported on Monday that the Bears had interest in Wisniewski. The Bears would be huge winners if they could sign him for a reasonable deal, but it looks as if they would be better suited for finding Garza’s eventual replacement in the draft.
With Julius Thomas set to sign with the Jaguars for a reported $9 million per season, Green would likely be the next in line for the starting role in Gary Kubiak’s tight end friendly offense. CBS’ Jason La Canfora says his decision will come down to the Broncos or the Bears. It would be a big addition to the Bears’ offense if they could add Green considering his ridiculous athleticism. A seventh-round pick from Nevada, Green was the top tight end performer in the broad jump and vertical jump categories at the 2011 NFL Combine. He would be a great complement to Martellus Bennett as a blocker and situational pass catcher in what’s expected to be a run-first offense. A reunion with his old coaches John Fox and Adam Gase could persuade Green.
The 30-year-old Purdum has been the Jets long snapper for the past five years. The Tribune reported that he is on the Bears’ radar. Jeremy Cain was the team’s long snapper in 2014 replacing Patrick Mannelly.
Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button to get all the latest Bears Backer articles sent to your inbox.