The Bears have been rather quiet on the signing front since free agency opened last Tuesday. Linebacker Pernell McPhee, safety Antrel Rolle, wide receiver Eddie Royal and guard Vladimir Ducasse are the four players the Bears have added thus far.
With the second phase of free agency underway, the Bears will likely be adding some key depth players. Center, cornerback, safety, wide receiver and linebacker are all positions that need more depth.
Center is an area of concern with 35-year-old Roberto Garza missing four games with a high ankle sprain last season. The total was his highest since the 2003 season with Atlanta.
He ranked as the No. 21 center out of 40 qualifiers by Pro Football Focus heading into Week 17. Garza graded out well as a run blocker, but his pass-blocking skills have become a concern over the past few seasons as he has slowed down.
The Bears haven’t shown interest in re-signing guard/center Brian de la Puente despite him making six starts between the two positions. However, Dan Connolly, Sameson Satele and Stefen Wisniewski have all been names to consider at the center position.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Bears are among five teams that have shown interest in 32-year-old center/guard Dan Connolly. The other teams are New England, Miami, Seattle and Tampa Bay.
Connolly has made 71 starts in his seven seasons with the Patriots. He has played mostly guard in his time in the NFL, but does have experience as a center. He was rated the No. 72 guard out of 78 players by Pro Football Focus in 2014.
Connolly has been successful over the years, but he appears to be trending in the wrong direction. He would be a nice versatile depth piece and competition for Garza.
Satele is another option for the Bears at this point, according to a Tribune report on Sunday. The 30-year-old has 114 career starts to his name between Miami, Indianapolis and Oakland. He started all 16 games in Miami last season and moved over from center to right guard once Mike Pouncey returned to action.
Satele earned $2 million last season on a one-year deal. I think he would be a much better signing than Connolly in terms of production and as a pure center.
Wisniewski is certainly the most talented of the three centers on this list. The Bears expressed interest in the soon to be 26-year-old prior to free agency. He has 61 starts his first four seasons, the last 45 coming at center, while the previous 16 were at left guard.
However, his price range is likely too high for the Bears right now. He has made visits to Tampa Bay and Seattle. The Seahawks seem to be very interested in his services since All-Pro center Max Unger was traded to New Orleans for tight end Jimmy Graham last week to open up free agency.
The Bears have just over $15 million in cap space currently and need $6 million for rookie contracts.
In other news, the Bears have been reportedly working on a deal with inside linebacker Mason Foster for the past week now. His reported price range has been around $3-4 million per season.
With the latest news about the retirement of Chris Borland, San Francisco could be a team willing to fork up some cash for Foster. So, the Bears may have some competition with Foster’s market getting bigger.
Foster, a 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.
Multiple sources confirm #Bears have been working on a deal with LB Mason Foster for days now. Just not sure why they can’t seal the deal.
— Aaron Leming (@AaronLemingNFL) March 17, 2015
According to the Tribune, the Bears have signed long snapper Thomas Gafford to a one-year deal. He spent the last seven seasons with Kansas City after bouncing around between the practice squads of Green Bay, Seattle and the Bears (2008). Former Bears’ coach Dave Toub has been his special teams coordinator the past two seasons.
Campbell recorded 316 tackles, 11 interceptions, six forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 46 games at Northwestern. CBS Sports projects him to be a 3rd or 4th round pick as a strong safety.
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