Chicago Bears: Byron Leftwich

Bears free agency preview: Quarterbacks

January, 29, 2013
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Chase DanielDerick E. Hingle/US PresswireNew Bears offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer is familiar with Saints backup QB Chase Daniel.
There are two Chicago Bears quarterbacks under contract: Jay Cutler and Matt Blanchard. That will change at some point in the offseason when the Bears fill out the back end of the quarterback depth chart either via free agency or the draft.

The Bears could also decide to bring back one, or both of the veteran reserves they had at the end of last season in Jason Campbell and Josh McCown, both of whom are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.

[+] EnlargeJason Campbell
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastA second year of Jason Campbell could be an option for the Bears.
The Bears signed Campbell to a one-year deal last offseason worth a total of $3.5 million ($2 million signing bonus, $1.4 million base salary, $100,000 workout bonus) in order to better protect themselves in the event Cutler missed any time due to injury, which he did.

Campbell took over for a concussed Cutler at the beginning of the second half of the Bears' home loss to the Houston Texans, then got the call to start the following game in San Francisco. The 49ers game was a debacle, but it's difficult to blame it all on Campbell, considering his two offensive tackles spent much of the night on their backs. Campbell finished the season completing 32-of-51 passes for 265 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 72.8, not exactly the kind of numbers that will excite teams in need of a starting quarterback, although it is possible Campbell could find a better opportunity and more playing time elsewhere in free agency.

But the laid back and reserved Campbell certainly did not make any enemies during his one-year stint in Chicago, so if the Bears decide they can't upgrade the No. 2 spot, another season with Campbell isn't a horrible option.

McCown brings tremendous value to a roster because of his personality, experience and willingness to impart his wisdom onto others. There is no doubt in my mind that McCown will be an NFL coach one day when his playing career is officially over. But with any veteran back-up, the issue always comes back to money. It is much more expensive to pay the veteran minimum to a guy like McCown with 10 accrued NFL seasons than it is to carry a younger player on your roster, even if it would be more beneficial to the team to keep the older player. McCown can also still play if necessary, which he showed last season in the preseason finale versus the Cleveland Browns.

If the Bears choose to add another veteran quarterback, not named Campbell or McCown, here are some of the options expected to be available in free agency, in no particular order.

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Free agency primer: WR tops Need Meter

March, 12, 2012
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Devin McCourtyMark L. Baer/US PresswireVincent Jackson is the big free agent prize among wide receivers. Will the Bears be big players?
Where they stand: The Chicago Bears lead the NFC North in available cap room, sitting on approximately $30 million. But it’s important to note that cap room shouldn’t be viewed as a blank check; especially when considering the Bears would likely be looking to extend several of their core players with contracts ending in the next couple of years. While upgrades on offense seem most logical of potential Bears moves during free agency, given the need to surround quarterback Jay Cutler with more weapons, it’s believed that coach Lovie Smith wants to revamp a defense led by four Pro Bowl players -- linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, cornerback Charles Tillman and defensive end Julius Peppers -- older than 30.

NEED-METER


[+] EnlargeMarques Colston
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezMarques Colston is among the second tier of free agent receivers who could be options for the Bears.
Receiver: 10. To be fair, the position didn’t appear as much of an area of need when the team ripped off a 7-3 start. Obviously, Cutler played a significant role in that. Over the first 10 games, Chicago’s receiving corps averaged 11 catches per outing. Once Cutler and running back Matt Forte suffered injuries that took them out of the lineup, the receivers’ production dipped to eight catches per game.

A dominant slot receiver, Earl Bennett became the club’s go-to option in the passing game with Cutler out of commission. Teams quickly recognized, and adjusted coverage accordingly, leading to Bennett catching one pass or fewer in five of his last six games. Johnny Knox’s horrific back injury against the Seattle Seahawks further exposed this team’s deficiencies at receiver.

So with a major need clearly defined at the position, the question now is how the team proceeds in free agency and the draft.

It’s believed the Bears plan on making a run at San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson in free agency, and sources have confirmed as much. But if Jackson commands what several agents expect to be a salary in the $12 million-per-season range, it’s unlikely new general manager Phil Emery would continue the team’s pursuit, based on his stated preference of building through the draft, which signifies he’s not a proponent of spending lavishly in free agency.

So surely the team has a few secondary and less-expensive options in mind, such as New Orleans Saints receivers Marques Colston and Robert Meachem, or Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon of the Indianapolis Colts. Given their youth and physical attributes, Meachem (just 11 dropped balls over four seasons) and Garcon would appear to be the best fits. Colston averaged just 3.2 yards after catch in 2011, according to Pro Football Focus. That doesn’t necessarily jibe with the explosive passing game the Bears envision in 2012. Wayne, meanwhile, is coming off his first season since 2003 in which he didn’t gain 1,000 yards receiving.

According to a source, just Wednesday, seven teams (the Bears weren't one of them) expressed interest in Meachem; a list sure to grow as free agency approaches.

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