Free-agent bonanza provides draft flexibility
General manager Phil Emery’s free-agent additions of tight end Martellus Bennett and offensive left tackle Jermon Bushrod in the opening hours of free agency addressed the Bears’ two biggest needs. It also gives them much greater flexibility in next month’s draft.
But Tuesday’s moves may have created another need if there’s not enough money left to re-sign linebackers Nick Roach or Brian Urlacher or Geno Hayes. And, if the Bears also can’t afford to re-sign right guard Lance Louis, their best blocker last season, then they’ve taken two steps forward and one step back on the O-line.
Bushrod’s cap number for 2013 is reportedly an extremely cap-friendly $3.05 million, which should provide Emery with some wiggle room, especially if Bennett’s deal is similarly structured.
As the result of the Bennett and Bushrod signings, there is some dead weight on the roster, starting with tight ends Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth. But the Bears might not be able to free up much additional money without losing valuable contributors.
But fortunately for the Bears, they now have the option of taking the best player available in the draft, rather than knowing they must get an offensive lineman and tight end. It’s possible they will look for more O-line help in the draft, and that’s not a bad idea.
Center Roberto Garza is 33 and doesn’t have much gas left in the tank. Tackle Jonathan Scott and guard-center Chris Spencer are in their 30s and both are unrestricted free agents who probably won’t be back.
But O-line isn’t the dire need it was Tuesday morning, and tight end is in capable hands. Most talent evaluators consider it a handicap having to draft for need rather than taking the best player available. Now the Bears can draft the best player on their board regardless of position.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o? Georgia linebacker Alex Ogletree? BYU defensive end and freak of nature Ziggy Ansah? Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson?
Tuesday’s free-agent haul should make the first two days of the draft (Rounds One and Two) a lot more interesting for Bears fans and possibly more productive as well.