There is a good chance that Adewale Ogunleye, the Bears’ starting left end for the past six years, will depart via free agency.
That expected void might have been filled in-house by former first-round pick Gaines Adams, but his unexpected death leaves the Bears in a predicament. Restricted free agent Mark Anderson was a flop when he was handed the starting job at right end in 2007, and he has just 9 ½ sacks in the three seasons since his 12-sack rookie season in 2006.
The good news is there are some elite defensive linemen slated to become free agents. The bad news is they won’t come cheaply, and some may be slapped with the franchise tag, effectively keeping them off the market. The Panthers’ Julius Peppers, when motivated, is talented enough to lift the Bears’ defense to a higher level all by himself. But Peppers is looking for a long-term deal with a salary of more than $1 million per game, and history says the Bears won’t ante up that kind of money.
Peppers turned 30 last month, but isn’t slowing down. He has 25 sacks over the past two seasons and has hit double figures in five of the last six seasons and six of his eight years in the league.
Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards will be a restricted free agent assuming that a new collective bargaining agreement isn’t in place by March 4. And he’ll get a high enough tender offer from the Vikings that will require at least a first-round pick as compensation, and the Bears don’t have a first-rounder to give, since it went to Denver for Jay Cutler.
The Raiders are expected to slap a franchise tag on Richard Seymour, but the Titans’ Kyle Vanden Bosch is expected to hit the market. Either one would be an upgrade for the Bears. Seymour is also 30, and he’s coming off a down season in Oakland, where he was unhappy after being traded to the Raiders. But he was a Pro Bowl player with the Patriots and at 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds could also play tackle in the Bears’ 4-3 scheme.
Vanden Bosch is 31, and his production has fallen off the past two seasons, when he had a total of just 7 sacks, but he had a total of 31 in the three previous seasons and made the Pro owl twice. His agent, Tony Agnone, recently refuted rumors that Vanden Bosch was mulling retirement.