Bears free agency: good and bad

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
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The first wave of free agency has come to a close, but the Chicago Bears still aren’t done adding players. We anticipate the club continuing to build the roster all the way through free agency, and even after the draft.

But in the meantime, we decided to spend this week taking a look at some of the best and worst free-agent acquisitions made over the past five years by the Chicago Bears. Here’s the second part of five installments. Feel free to add some of your own in the comments section:

GOOD

Matt Slauson
Position: Left guard
Contract: One year, $820,600
Years of service with Bears: 2013-present

[+] EnlargeMatt Slauson
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsThe Bears recently gave Matt Slauson a four-year deal worth almost $13 million.
Recap: Slauson left the New York Jets to join Chicago on basically a one-year, prove-it deal, and quickly became one of four new starters along the Bears’ offensive line in 2013. According to Pro Football Focus, Slauson finished the 2013 season with the sixth-highest grade among guards in the NFL. Bears general manager Phil Emery rewarded Slauson for his play in January, signing the veteran to a four-year deal worth $12.8 million. In addition to Slauson's contributions on the field, teammates said he played a key role in helping some of the club's younger players such as Kyle Long transition into the pro game.

Quarterback Jay Cutler said that Slauson provided "toughness, a nastiness, a veteran leadership which was needed for the younger guys. He's constant. Every single day he's grinding. He was able to show Kyle [Long] what it takes to be a successful guard in the NFL. I was really excited to hear that he's going to be here four more years protecting me."

BAD

Marion Barber
Position: Running back
Contract: Two years, $5 million
Years of service with Bears: 2011

Recap: From the backflip fail during a win at Carolina, to two late-game mishaps that played huge roles during a Chicago overtime loss at Denver, former running back Marion Barber had a somewhat rocky tenure in one season in Chicago after a fairly successful six-year stint with the Dallas Cowboys. Barber rushed for 422 yards and six touchdowns on 114 carries with the Bears in 2011, but the Bears opted to add Michael Bush the very next offseason to serve as the primary backup to starter Matt Forte. Maybe Barber saw the writing on the wall, but in March of 2012 the running back, then 28, decided to retire. Barber was due a base salary of $1.9 million for 2012.

"I want to thank everyone who gave me the opportunity to play, and I'm very thankful to have had the chance to suit up for two of the NFL's most storied organizations," Barber told the team’s official website.

With that, he was gone. Barber reported to training camp for the Bears out of shape and dealt with a variety of nagging injuries. With the Bears still fighting for a spot in the postseason, Barber ran out of bounds late in regulation during a 13-10 overtime loss to Denver with his team leading and needing to run out the clock. Then in overtime, he fumbled for the first time all season, which led to Denver’s game-winning field goal.

Barber finished his NFL career with 4,780 rushing yards and 53 touchdowns.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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