Bears' free-agent hunt will have to include linebackers

Posted May 23, 2011 @ 3:41 p.m.
Posted By Dan Parr

Bears GM Jerry Angelo didn't reveal the positions he would be targeting in free agency when he was asked about it following the draft. He seemed open to considering players at several spots — Angelo said quarterback was the only position that could be ruled out — and expressed confidence in the team's plan for free agency.

"Certainly we are going to want some of our players back," Angelo said in a post-draft press conference. "But when our players are out in the open market, you have to consider them open to any team. So there is no guarantee that we are going to get anybody back."

While it's not a guarantee, there is a good chance a few of their free agents, including LB Nick Roach, will be back.

The most glaring hole on the roster that no doubt has the team's attention is at linebacker. Pro Bowlers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are the only 'backers under contract through 2011. The Bears did address the position in the draft, but not until the sixth round, when they selected J.T. Thomas. He's penciled in to contribute on special teams as a rookie.

The Bears are interested in re-signing Roach, and they won't have to compete against other teams for his services if the league operates under the same free-agency rules as it did last season. Roach would be a restricted free agent and the Bears have placed a tender on him, which will keep him from hitting the open market. Re-signing Roach, who will at least get a chance to compete for the starting job on the strong side, and signing Thomas would give Chicago four linebackers. The Bears had six on the active roster for much of last season and will need to add at least a couple more players at the position before training camp.

Chicago's other free-agent 'backers — Brian Iwuh, Pisa Tinoisamoa and Rod Wilson — face uncertain futures. Indications are Iwuh and Wilson were not tendered before the lockout and all three players are assured of becoming unrestricted free agents. It's possible that the Bears will take another one-year flier on Tinoisamoa, but he has struggled to stay healthy and did not seem confident that he would be back with the team in interviews after the team's playoff exit.

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