With the negotiating period (no, I won’t call it legal tampering) in free agency underway, what will the Bears try to accomplish over the next week?
The Bears don’t have the kind of cap space they have had in recent years, so we know that they won’t be making the splash they made a year ago, when they re-signed Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller and signed Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson before acquiring Khalil Mack.
We also have to remember that the Bears will need to do new contracts for the likes of Eddie Jackson, Cody Whitehair and Mitch Trubisky in the near future. Granted, a restructure of Trubisky’s contract can’t happen for at least a year, and the Bears still have space to do that contract. One thing is certain, if he keeps progressing, Trubisky's contract is going to be the richest one in Bears history, so contracts done now will come into play.
If reports over the weekend are accurate, the Bears will be losing starting strong safety Adrian Amos. The Bears went hard after 34-year-old Eric Weddle after he was released by Baltimore, according to MMQB. If that is the case, and even though the Bears didn’t end up signing Weddle, Amos' days with the team could be over.
Because strong safety isn’t a spot on the defense that carries a high slot on the positional value board, the Bears most likely decided they aren’t going to pay premium money for Amos, as they they may have better options in either the draft or free agency. Or, they may feel that Deon Bush is ready to step in and be a regular player in 2019.
Some areas of need for the Bears are running back, backup outside linebacker, slot corner and depth at wide receiver. The questioin the Bears will answer this week is: Are they better off trying to re-sign players like slot corner Bryce Callahan, backup outside linebacker Aaron Lynch and backup wide receiver Josh Bellamy or trying to replace them in free agency.
It’s my opinion that the Bears have to go all out to try and re-sign Callahan. Last year he was easily one of the top nickel corners in all of football, but playing the nickel is not a starting position. The question competing teams have to ask is if they feel Callahan can be a viable starter outside.
What hurts Callahan with some teams is his height. At 5091, he falls under the 5100 minimum that many clubs have for the position. That was one of the main reasons he went undrafted coming out of college. That won’t change because he is a vet, but there still will be several teams that don’t put as much stock into height as others do. The Bears could let Callahan find out what his market value is and then come back with a counter offer. It will be interesting.
Aaron Lynch did an outstanding job as the backup to Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. When he signed with the Bears last year, it was only a one-year deal. He clearly played up to that contract ($4M including bonuses), so will the Bears try and bring him back or will there be less-expensive alternatives available on the free agent market? Lynch was a good fit in Vic Fangio’s defense, but will he be the same fit under new DC Chuck Pagano? Pagano has stated that he will keep the scheme virtually the same but still may be looking for different traits at different positions.
Running back is probably the most talked about position for the Bears this offseason. Jordan Howard is a good NFL running back but not exactly what the Bears are looking for within their scheme. The Bears would like a more explosive back in their offense, as well as a more reliable receiver than Howard who can make things happen downfield in the pass game.
It has been said that the Bears are open to trading Howard, but what is his value? Many think he’s a late-round pick at best. Other feel the Bears won’t get anything in a trade and will end up waiving Howard. Again, we will know shortly.
There have been rumors the last few days that the free agent back the Bears are interested in is New Orleans' Mark Ingram. While that may be true, I’m not so sure I’m buying it. Ingram is 29 years old and has already carried the ball over 1,300 times in his career, as well as having 228 receptions. While he may be a short term upgrade, is that what the Bears want to do with their available free agent money? At 29, how much tread is left on Ingram's tires?
This draft doesn’t have any special runners that are worthy of top-5 or even top-15 selections, but there are a number of good running backs who fit the Bears scheme and can be selected in the third or fourth round. Players like Trayveon Williams, Devin Singletary, Devine Ozigbo and David Montgomery all could be productive in the Bears’ offense.
At wide receiver, Kevin White won’t be back and Josh Bellamy is a free agent, so the Bears could be looking for a player. Like almost every year, the draft has depth at the position, and the Bears are also hoping that Javon Wims is ready to go in this his second year. A name we don’t hear about but could be one to remember is Jordan Williams-Lambert, who played for Saskatchewan last year in the Canadian League and was signed by the Bears in January. Last year he had 62 catches for 764 yards and four touchdowns, as well as being a top special teams performer. He could very well challenge for the fifth wide receiver spot.
It will be an interesting week for the Bears. What they do this week will have a direct effect on what they do in the draft, and between free agency and the draft we will get a good idea as to what the Bears roster will look like in 2019.