Chicago Bears: Brandon Gibson

Bears free agency preview: Wide receivers

January, 31, 2013
Dwayne BoweGeorge Gojkovich/Getty ImagesBears GM Phil Emery is familiar with Dwayne Bowe after spending three years in Kansas City.

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The Chicago Bears already have a significant amount invested at wide receiver next season with a combined $11.650 million in salary cap space between Brandon Marshall ($9.3 million) and Earl Bennett ($2.350 million) and the second-round pick the club used last year on Alshon Jeffery.

But while Marshall remains one of the best in the game, Bennett and Jeffery have both dealt with their share of injuries, which raises the question of whether the Bears need to protect themselves by grabbing another moderately priced wide receiver in the offseason.

[+] EnlargeAlshon Jeffery
Rob Grabowski/US PresswireAlshon Jeffery caught 24 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games as a rookie.
Devin Hester is under contract for one more season, but he completely fell off the map last year, especially on offense where he appears to have zero chemistry with quarterback Jay Cutler. Maybe the Bears keep Hester for the sake of the return game, but it seems like a long-shot that he will be asked to contribute much on offense. With Lovie Smith and Darryl Drake no longer in the building, Hester would probably benefit from a fresh start in a new NFL city. But that's an issue the Bears have yet to address.

Eric Weems is signed through 2014, but he also seems to do his best work on special teams.

It would be wonderful to see Johnny Knox return to the field after the horrific spine injury he suffered late in the 2011 season against the Seattle Seahawks, because Knox is exactly the type of down-the-field vertical threat the Bears missed last year in the passing game.

Although Knox is determined to make a comeback and continues to work toward resuming football-related activities, it's still unknown if Knox will ever play again, which makes it difficult to count on him to fill a role in 2013. Knox is officially a free agent after his original rookie contract expired at the end of the regular season.

The wildcard in this group might be 6-foot-1 Joe Anderson, the second-year man out of Texas Southern who made an impact on special teams late last season with a couple of big hits. Anderson carries himself with a certain confidence, that should serve him well when he tries to win a roster spot next summer in training camp.

But looking at the unit as a whole, and given the injury concerns surrounding Bennett and Jeffery, the Bears could be in the market for another receiver in either the draft or free agency. If the Bears go the veteran route, here is a look at some of the projected unrestricted free agent wideouts, in no particular order.

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