Chicago Bears: Major Wright

Bears draft focus: S

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
The Chicago Bears haven’t drafted a safety in the first round since Mark Carrier in 1990.

That drought could end next month.

Safety is clearly a position of need for the Bears after they lost both starters from last year: strong safety Major Wright left in free agency to Tampa Bay and free safety Chris Conte underwent shoulder surgery in late March that is expected to sideline him until the preseason.

The Bears did address the position in free agency by signing Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray, plus re-signing veteran Craig Steltz to a one-year deal, but the starting combination is far from set. It is conceivable that a rookie draft pick could start for the Bears at safety in Week 1, along with perhaps Mundy.

If the Bears decide to take a safety at No. 14 overall, there are two options: Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor. reported that Pryor made an official pre-draft visit to the Bears, while the NFL Network noted that Clinton-Dix also made a recent trip to Halas Hall.

Clinton-Dix is said to have terrific instincts and above average coverage skills.

Pryor is one of the hardest hitters in the draft. He can absolutely destroy ball carriers in the run game. Newly hired Bears assistant defensive line coach Clint Hurtt spent three years with Pryor at Louisville as the Cardinals’ defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator. also noted Washington State safety Deone Bucannon made a top-30 pre-draft visit to the Bears in March. Another physical tackler, Bucannon intercepted six passes in 2013 and finished his career with 15 total picks for the Cougars. Most analysts project Bucannon will be drafted somewhere in the second or third round.

The Bears took a safety in the third round every year from 2010-2012 (Wright, Conte and Brandon Hardin). That approach failed to solidify the position long-term.

Maybe it’s time for the Bears to swing for the fences.

Five potential targets:

1. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
2. Calvin Pryor, Louisville
3. Deone Bucannon, Washington State
4. Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
5. Terrence Brooks, Florida State

The next five: 6. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor; 7. Maurice Alexander, Utah State; 8. Ed Reynolds, Stanford; 9. Daniel Sorensen, BYU; 10. Antone Exum, Virginia Tech.

Position grade: B
Neil Hornsby over at Pro Football Focus put together a piece Wednesday identifying five teams that could push themselves into the playoffs Insider by identifying and addressing one specific positional need in the upcoming NFL draft.

He pointed to Carolina in 2013 as an example. Headed into last year’s draft, the Panthers needed to fix issues at defensive tackle. They did so by drafting interior linemen Star Lotulelei and Kawaan Short with their first two selections, turning what had been identified as a glaring weakness into a major strength.

For the Chicago Bears, the significant weakness, according to Hornsby, is the safety position.

Horsby writes: “It would be far from unfair to say the worst position group in football last year was the Bears' collection of safeties. Both regular starters were listed in the worst five of our 86 ranked players at the position. Major Wright and Chris Conte combined to give up more than 1,000 yards in the air, and if anything, were worse as run defenders. Both missed more than 10 tackles in that phase alone, and were both in the top 10 for missed tackles overall.”

Obviously, the Bears tried to upgrade the safety position in free agency by acquiring Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings, and Danny McCray. But at this point, those players appear to be depth signings, capable of starting games in a pinch. The club needs to raise the talent level, especially now that Conte might end up missing some training camp coming off a shoulder surgery.

Though it’s unclear whether the Bears will address safety immediately with the No. 14 pick, it’s pretty much guaranteed that at some point in the draft the team will take one, possibly even two.

By Hornsby’s rationale, that could be the difference in the Bears earning their first trip to the playoffs since the 2010 season.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears agreed to terms on a two-year contract with safety Ryan Mundy, the club announced.

Mundy appeared in 16 games (nine starts) for the New York Giants last season, where he recorded a career-high 70 tackles, one sack and one interception. The 6-foot-1, 209-pound safety played four years (2009-12) for the Pittsburgh Steelers, starting five combined games during that stretch.

Mundy was selected by the Steelers in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL draft out of West Virginia.

With Major Wright expect to depart via free agency, Mundy should fill one of the Bears’ safety spots in 2014.

Although Chris Conte struggled last season, the Bears will allow the former third-round draft choice to compete for a starting job in the preseason.

Safeties Craig Steltz and Anthony Walters (restricted) are also free agents.

Free-agency primer: Bears

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: Charles Tillman, Henry Melton, D.J. Williams, Major Wright, Devin Hester, Corey Wootton, Josh McCown.

Where they stand: The club informed Hester it won't be re-signing him for 2014, but the Bears are making a concerted effort to try to bring back Tillman. Still, there's a chance the economics won't work out, as Tillman could have other suitors willing to pay more than Chicago. The Bears did some work in re-signing free agents, such as defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, cornerback Kelvin Hayden along with center Roberto Garza, to cap-friendly deals. Negotiations to re-sign McCown have moved along slowly, which means there's a chance the Bears could lose him if another team gives the backup an opportunity to win a starting job. There's interest from both sides in re-signing Williams, and talks are expected to continue over the weekend.

What to expect: At this point, it's unknown where Chicago's pro personnel department has rated its own unsigned free agents against what else is available on the market. So count on the Bears waiting to see what the market value for their own players is before moving to re-sign them, which is actually a smart move that will keep them from overpaying. The Bears aren't expected to overspend on big names in free agency, but general manager Phil Emery has been known in recent years to make a couple of surprise moves. The Bears would like to infuse youth on defense, but that could prove to be a pricey proposition in free agency for a team with limited cap space. They do have the flexibility to free up cash by cutting players such as Julius Peppers, or restructuring Jay Cutler's deal, which includes a base salary of $22.5 million in 2014.
Teams around the NFL can start contacting and negotiating with agents of players set to become unrestricted free agents on Saturday, but deals can’t be executed until Mar. 11 at 3 p.m. CST when new league year starts.

As that date quickly approaches, we take a look at Chicago’s pending free agents, and their chances of returning to the team in the second part of our week-long series.

2014 free agent: Henry Melton

Position: Defensive tackle

2013 statistics: 3 games (three starts); 5 tackles, two quarterback pressures and one fumble recovery.

2013 salary: $8.45M base salary, $4,725 workout bonus -- $8,454,725 cash value.

Outlook: Once the negotiating window opens up on Mar. 8, Melton fully expects to start discussing potential deals with other teams. That expectation comes as a result of talks with the Bears that haven’t quite gone the way Melton’s representatives would have hoped, which is understandable considering he’s coming off a torn ACL, and a recent arrest, not to mention concerns about his level of commitment. Bears coach Marc Trestman has raved about Melton’s rehabilitation, and there’s a desire on the team’s part to bring him back for 2014. But with the team tight against the cap, Melton can’t expect to receive a deal anywhere near the $8.45 million franchise tender he signed in 2014, coming off a Pro Bowl season. Melton will have some suitors, and there’s a chance he could come back to Chicago at a reduced rate.

2014 free agent: Zack Bowman

Position: Cornerback

2013 statistics: 16 games (seven starts); 49 tackles, three interceptions (one touchdown), 10 pass breakups, two tackles-for-loss and three special teams tackles.

2013 salary: $715,000 base salary, $65,000 signing bonus and $5,245.00 workout bonus -- $785,425 cash value.

Outlook: Bowman is expected to test free agency, but the Bears want him to return. At 29 years old with 23 career starts over six seasons, Bowman will probably generate interest from teams in need of depth at the cornerback position. The Bears were pleased with how Bowman performed when he replaced Charles Tillman in the second half of 2013, although it’s unknown if the club is willing to offer the six-year NFL veteran anything above a league minimum contract. Bowman’s leverage would increase if Tillman leaves the Bears via free agency. Bottom line: the Bears are a better team with Bowman on the roster in 2014. It wouldn’t take much to keep him in Chicago, but he is coming off a productive season. That is an important factor to remember.

2014 free agent: Major Wright

Position: Safety

2013 statistics: 15 games (15 starts); 117 tackles (97 solo), two interceptions, 1 pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.

2013 salary: $1.323M base salary and $5,075 workout -- $1,328,075 cash value.

Outlook: After a solid showing in 2012, Wright came into the 2013 season with high expectations, but regressed to the point at which there’s a perceived need at the safety position. While it appears Wright can be salvaged, it’s expected he’ll test the market because the Bears don’t appear inclined to offer anything more than a veteran minimum type of deal. Wright possesses the skillset to be a solid starter for the Bears moving forward. But his lack of consistency has become such a liability the Bears are likely strongly considering replacing him.

2014 free agent: Corey Wootton

Position: Defensive line

2013 statistics: 16 games (15 starts); 31 tackles, 3.5 sacks, five pass breakups, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and 4.5 tackles-for-loss.

2013 salary: $1.323M base salary and $5,600 signing bonus -- $1,328,600 cash value

Outlook: The Bears talks with Wootton have likely not surpassed the exploratory phase after the versatile defensive lineman underwent hip surgery in the offseason. It’s simply too early to tell when Wootton will be fully recovered from the procedure, although given Wootton’s work ethic and physical fitness level, he could be ready to return to the field in June. Wootton proved in 2013 that he can be both a viable defensive end and tackle. The ability to bounce inside and line up at tackle should aid Wootton (seven sacks in 2012) when he enters free agency. Wootton is a talented player with impressive size (6-foot-6, 270 pounds) who is extremely well-liked in the locker room. But the Bears will probably wait to see how they address defensive line in free agency and the draft before they make a final decision on the still recovering Wootton. He could be off the market before the draft concludes in early May, but the Bears don’t seem to be in a rush.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Because of everything going on at the NFL combine, we had to push back the Bears Twitter mailbag to Monday.

Sorry for any inconvenience, but the plan is to continue running this feature on Saturdays throughout the offseason.

Let’s get started with this question about safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte:

Countdown to Combine: Bears

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
With the NFL combine starting Feb. 22, here's a look at Chicago's positions of need and which prospects the Bears might be taking a closer look at in Indianapolis. Positions of need are listed in order of importance.

Position of need: Safety

The Bears made changes in the starting lineup at the safety position more than 50 times under former coach Lovie Smith prior to last season, but it was expected in 2013 the turnover would finally come to an end.

It did last season -- which was expected to be a breakout year -- with Major Wright and Chris Conte starting all but one game together. But the numbers say the Bears perhaps should've considered changes at the position because both safeties struggled tremendously. A team source said after reviewing tape from the season that there was "no explanation" for Conte and Wright's inconsistency.

"I saw with our safety play, and I'm sure that Major and Chris would agree, they did not play at the ability and capability level throughout the season that we would have expected," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "I think they would be their own worst critics in this area; that they would have wanted more out of themselves."

Opposing quarterbacks generated a passer rating of 104.5 on passes thrown in Conte's coverage area, according to Pro Football focus, and the safety allowed a 21.5-yard average on 22 completions while surrendering four touchdowns, including the 48-yard scoring strike on fourth down from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb, which essentially ended Chicago's season. Wright performed worse, allowing a 77.8 completion percentage as quarterbacks produced a passer rating of 146.8 on throws his direction for five touchdowns.

In addition, Wright and Conte combined for 31 missed tackles.

Wright is a pending free agent, while Conte enters the final year of his original rookie contract. So it's almost a given the Bears will target at least one safety in May's NFL draft, while possibly adding to the position in free agency as well.

Three players Bears could be targeting

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama: Played at a big-time program at Alabama, and Bears general manager Phil Emery has an affinity for SEC players because of the level of competition they face on a week-to-week basis. Clinton-Dix is already well-versed in directing somewhat of a pro-style defense, and is considered instinctive and fluid. The knock on Clinton-Dix so far has been a perceived lack of physicality, but he'll likely be a first-round pick, which might be too rich for the Bears.

Calvin Pryor, Louisville: Perhaps one of the more rounded safeties of this year's class, Pryor entered the draft early. Former Louisville coach Charlie Strong says the safety is one of the best players he's ever coached. Pryor produced 75 tackles and intercepted three passes last year, and possesses range comparable to Clinton-Dix. But he is perhaps a more physical player that will mix it up at the line of scrimmage against the run. Pryor might push Clinton-Dix to be the first safety taken, which again, might be too rich for the Bears at No. 14.

Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois: Not as big as the safeties listed above (5-11, 193), Ward caught the attention of scouts at the Senior Bowl and was named most outstanding defensive back of the week. Atlanta's staff lined up Ward in multiple spots, and the safety didn't disappoint. An aggressive hitter, Ward picked off seven passes and broke up 10 more at Northern Illinois, and has started games at cornerback. He projects as a second- or third-round pick, which might be the ideal range for the Bears.

Bears position outlook: Safety

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
Free agents: Major Wright, Craig Steltz, Derrick Martin and Anthony Walters (restricted).

The good: Wright ranked second on the defense with 117 tackles and intercepted two passes. In his lone start of the year, Steltz made 12 stops versus the Minnesota Vikings, including several impressive open field tackles against Pro Bowl tailback Adrian Peterson. Chris Conte did have a career-high 95 tackles and three interceptions.

The bad: Again, how much time do you have? The disastrous play of the front-seven exposed the Bears' safeties beyond belief. Much of the season was littered with missed open field tackles and busted coverage from the safety position, although to be fair, the two safeties didn't get much help from up front. Conte had an especially tough year. He played the wrong coverage late in the 4th quarter in the Bears' Week 17 winner-take-all NFC North clash versus the Green Bay Packers that resulted in Randall Cobb's game-winning touchdown reception. The safeties also squandered several chances to force turnovers over the course of the season. Moral of the story: burn the tape.

The money: Conte has one year left on his original rookie contract. He is scheduled to count roughly $1.5 million against the salary cap next season after he reportedly hit a performance escalator that will raise his base salary to the low restricted free agent tender amount of $1.389 million. Conte still has the prorated amount of $133,400 left from his signing bonus of $533,600 that will also count against the cap in 2014. Besides Conte, the Bears have little money allocated to the safety position. They did sign Sean Cattouse to a futures contract immediately following the regular season.

Draft priority: Urgent. At the very least, the Bears will have to find one new starter at safety. A more likely scenario calls for the team to replace both Conte and Wright, although the club could decide to bring Conte to training camp and let him compete for a roster spot/job. Steltz is a seasoned veteran with starting experience who excels on special teams. He can probably be re-signed for the league minimum. But the Bears need to get younger and better at safety.
With the season over and the cupboard bare in terms of Chicago Bears news, I decided to try my first Twitter mailbag to answer some of the questions you guys had.

Throughout the offseason, we'll try to knock out at least one of these per week.

So let's get into this:

Four Downs: Marshall deal by '14 season?

January, 9, 2014
Jan 9
Brandon MarshallNuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/MCT/Getty ImagesBrandon Marshall has 100-catch seasons in each of his two years with the Bears.
Jay Cutler got his money. Will Brandon Marshall, his best buddy and favorite target, get a new deal before next season? Or will Marshall follow the same path as his quarterback and play out his contract in 2014?

Our panel weighs in on that and more:

First Down

Fact or Fiction: Brandon Marshall will receive a contract extension before the 2014 season.


When would you re-sign Brandon Marshall?


Discuss (Total votes: 5,215)

Jeff Dickerson: Fact. The Cutler long-term deal makes it even more likely that Marshall will receive an extension sometime before his current contract expires after 2014. Marshall wanted an extension last offseason and failed to get it. I expect he will again be on the hunt for new money from the Bears. From a productivity standpoint, it’s hard to argue that Marshall doesn’t deserve it. Keep in mind, the Bears will have to pay Alshon Jeffery next offseason, but with Cutler in the mix for the foreseeable future, Marshall is probably in line for the next big deal.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. I don't see that being the top priority before training camp, given the needs of the defense, but the Bears should work to make sure there is no distraction next season, as the Bears' best wide receiver in, well, ever, goes into a contract year. As you might know, Marshall likes to talk. He likes to express himself. I could see Emery working on a deal during the season, despite his broken vow not to do so. Marshall is already the best receiver in the organization's history. He will likely get paid accordingly, even as he moves toward 30.

Second Down

Fact or Fiction: The Bears are the winners in the Jay Cutler contract.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJay Cutler will have $38 million guaranteed on March 14.
Jeff Dickerson: Fiction: The Bears and cap czar Cliff Stein did the absolute best they could writing up this deal, withholding a signing bonus so in the future the organization can cut ties with Cutler without a salary-cap hit, or keep him from year to year at a reasonable rate that includes per active game roster bonuses. But Cutler will have $38 million guaranteed on March 14. Cutler has another $16 million in guarantees scheduled to kick in in March of 2015 and 2016. He has led the Bears to one playoff appearance in five years. Cutler wins.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. The Bears got their quarterback at a price they were comfortable with. If this weren't a team-friendly deal, it wouldn't have been done four days after the season was over. Yes, his cap number in 2014 looks big, but the Bears have space now to pay more money. They also are only locked in for three seasons and for a reasonable $54 million. With cap Stein at the controls, the Bears can also recalibrate his contract, spreading it out or bunching it up, if need be. Re-signing Cutler was always the right move and getting the deal done immediately now frees up the front office to focus on other needs, specifically on defense. Everyone wins in this deal.

Third Down

Fact or Fiction: Josh McCown has played his way to a bigger paycheck somewhere else.

[+] EnlargeJosh McCown
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJosh McCown thrived as a fill-in for Jay Cutler this season.
Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. If McCown was only about the money, then yes, he played his way to a bigger paycheck somewhere else. But the veteran quarterback seems to be above chasing every last cent on the open market. Don't get me wrong, making money is important and McCown deserves to be compensated for his 13-touchdown, one-interception 2013 season. But McCown is in a perfect spot in Chicago. He's in the perfect offense (for his skills), with coaches he respects, behind a quarterback (Cutler) with has durability issues, in a town that adores him. Expect the Bears to present McCown with a strong offer with the intent of agreeing in principle to a deal before the beginning of the league year (March 11), the date when McCown can officially sign a new contract.

Jon Greenberg: Fiction. I think there's a strong chance McCown comes back with a competitive offer from the Bears. While McCown owes it to himself and his family to get as much money as he can on this deal, I assume he's smart enough to know the grass isn't always greener on the other side. This coaching staff, this offense and this team was perfectly suited to assist him in having a career season at 34. The type of team that would possibly want him as a short-term starter will likely be a mess. If he's offered a deal too good to refuse, he has to take it. But if the Bears can guarantee him more than, say, $2 million over the life of a short contract, I'll bet he stays here.

Fourth Down

Fact or Fiction: The Bears will have two new starting safeties next season.

[+] EnlargeMajor Wright, Chris Conte
David Banks/Getty ImagesWill 2014 be the season that Jason Witten and the Cowboys charge into the NFC playoffs?
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Major Wright is an unrestricted free agent and Chris Conte's struggles in 2013 have been well documented. When the head coach (Marc Trestman) acknowledges (unsolicited) in the year-end news conference that neither safety played well, change at the position is on the horizon. However, the Bears could decide to bring Conte to training camp and let him compete for a roster spot. Conte, 24, is scheduled to count only $788,400 against the Bears' salary cap in 2014. That's a reasonable number for a player with so much starting experience, even if he is coming off a down year.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. Emery doesn't play. Just ask Gabe Carimi and J'Marcus Webb. Heck, just ask Brian Urlacher. Emery isn't shy about making moves. I think Wright and Conte got a raw deal at times because of the myriad breakdowns in front of them, thanks to injuries and inexperience in the front seven. The previous season, when the defense was humming, they looked a lot better. Both could move on to have decent to strong NFL careers, but I think it's time to at least make a change in the starting lineup. I could see Conte hanging around as a backup, although he might want a fresh start somewhere else after the way the season ended. The Bears should draft a safety in the first three rounds and then go into the free-agent pool. There are very few keepers on the worst defense in Bears history, and these two aren't among them.

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final power ranking: 15
Preseason power ranking: 13

Biggest surprise: The Chicago Bears' offensive line didn't exactly set the world on fire, but for the first time in recent memory the group wasn't the weak link of the team. The Bears revamped the offensive line by adding four new starters: Kyle Long, Jordan Mills, Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson. The group's efforts, combined with a more quick-hitting passing game, resulted in just 19 sacks for QB Jay Cutler, his lowest total since 11 with Denver in 2008. The offensive line in 2013 displayed more consistency than any at other time in Cutler's time in Chicago, but the group struggled at inopportune times and often was aided by Cutler and Josh McCown getting rid of the ball quickly. Still, this year's group laid a foundation it can build on.

Biggest disappointment: New defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will unfairly take criticism for the defense's failures in 2013. Coming off a 2012 campaign in which the defense ranked No. 5 overall and in the top 10 against the run and the pass, the unit in 2013 surrendered the most rushing yards (2,583) and points (478) in franchise history. Injuries played a major role. They cost the team a combined 72 missed games, 43 among starters alone. In recent history, the defense was the one facet that Chicago could always count on. But that wasn't the case in 2013. What's most surprising is how quickly the defense's decline came after being the team's backbone for so many years.

Biggest need: The defense is badly in need of a total makeover, and the bulk of that work should be done on the defensive line. It's safe to say now that former first-round defensive end Shea McClellin hasn't lived up to expectations and franchise defensive tackle Henry Melton is overrated. The Bears also have to decide whether to move forward with Julius Peppers, who is expensive and starting to show his age (will be 33 on Jan. 18), while finding a way to bring back Corey Wootton. The back end needs help, too. The deals for cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are up, as is the contract for safety Major Wright. The Bears also need to bring in competition to push underperforming safety Chris Conte.

Team MVP: Running back Matt Forte quietly put together his best season as a pro, accounting for nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage (1,933) and career highs in rushing (1,339 yards) and receiving (74 catches, 594 yards). Receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery may have made flashier plays, but make no mistake: Forte is what makes the offense go. Cutler called Forte the best all-around back in the league, and he definitely made a strong case for it in 2013. A true three-down back, Forte threatened defenses as a runner and a receiver. On passing downs, Forte was also key in the team's protection schemes.

Hester, Peppers unsure of futures

December, 29, 2013
CHICAGO -- Three-time Pro Bowl return man Devin Hester wants clarity on his future with the Chicago Bears.

Hester, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after earning $2,107,523 in the final year of his contract, hopes to hear in the near future if he fits into the Bears’ plans beyond 2013.

“I really want to know right away,” Hester said following the Bears’ 33-28 loss to the Green Bay Packers. “I am the type of guy, I don’t want to go through the whole offseason not knowing where I am going to be at. I want to retire as a Bear. I put in too much hard work here and did a lot of things around here. I am pretty sure the fans want me back, so who knows.”

One of the organization’s most popular players since he debuted in the league in 2006 as a second-round pick out of the University of Miami, Hester said he’s currently in the dark regarding the Bears’ offseason intentions.

“To be honest, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Hester said. “It really hurts walking off the field knowing that this could be my last time wearing a Chicago Bears uniform. It’s the most hurtful feeling that I have right now. This is where I was born and raised (as an NFL player). It’s not like I played three years somewhere else or six years somewhere else, but I know this is a business.

Everything I had in me I left it all on the field tonight. We just came up short.”

Hester returned a punt 49 yards in Week 17 while also handling five kickoffs for 127 yards. In his first season of being exclusively a return man, Hester finished 2013 with a 27.7 yard average on kickoff returns and 14.2 yard average on punt returns, including an 81-yard touchdown.

He joins a long list of prominent Bears players with expiring contracts. Among the players on the list: quarterback Jay Cutler, cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, defensive lineman Corey Wootton, safety Major Wright, center Roberto Garza, linebacker James Anderson and left guard Matt Slauson.

The future of veteran defensive end Julius Peppers is also in doubt. Although Peppers is under contract through 2015, he is currently projected to count $18,183,333 against the Bears’ salary cap next season. Peppers lead the Bears this year with 7.5 sacks, but he didn’t look nearly as dominant as he had in previous seasons.

“I’m not sure, I don’t know [what’s going to happen],” Peppers said. “I’m in a contract. You’ll need to talk to a decision-maker about that.”

The Bears failed to extend player contracts for almost the entire season until they re-signed kicker Robbie Gould and fullback Tony Fiammatta in the week leading up to the Packers game. General manager Phil Emery is expected to work quickly in the coming weeks to try to re-sign some of his own free agents that he views as long-term parts of the team.

Briggs targeting Dec. 22 return date

December, 13, 2013
LAKE FOREST, Ill -- The Chicago Bears have ruled out weakside linebacker Lance Briggs (fractured shoulder) for Sunday, but coach Marc Trestman believes the seven-time Pro Bowler is on the mend and could return Dec. 22 versus the Philadelphia Eagles.

Briggs will miss his seventh straight game when the team travels to face the Cleveland Browns, but he practiced this week for the first time since fracturing his shoulder in the Bears’ loss to the Washington Redskins on Oct. 20.

Briggs was officially listed as limited on Thursday and Friday.

“I’d be much more optimistic next week that he [could return],” Trestman said. “He got more work today, and we’ll see how he is doing at the start of next week. But it raises our optimism, certainly.”

Bears safety Major Wright said Friday that the defense is eager to welcome back Briggs. The Bears rank No. 27 in total defense and No. 32 in rushing defense. Briggs recorded 75 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and nine tackles for loss before the injury.

“It’s always fun having Lance around,” Wright said. “We enjoy his leadership and his demeanor. It’s great having him back out there with us running around. We definitely have to get it going and Lance can definitely help a lot.”

Cutler rests sore ankle

December, 7, 2013
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears held out Jay Cutler from Saturday’s practice, but coach Marc Trestman stressed the quarterback didn’t suffer a setback in his rehabilitation from a high ankle sprain.

Cutler returned to practice on Thursday, and worked two days before the team decided to rest him.

“We kept Jay out today. There’s no residual effect from the work he did the last couple of days,” Trestman said. “We just chose to rest him today.”

With Cutler already declared out for Monday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, Trestman said he couldn’t give a definitive timeline for when the quarterback might return. The coach also added that Cutler didn’t experience “any residual effects this morning” from the last two days of work, no soreness or anything like that.”

After the matchup with the Cowboys, the Bears hit the road next Sunday to face the Cleveland Browns.

“We can be optimistic, but we can’t be definitive right now,” Trestman said.

Trestman said team doctors will spend time examining Cutler as the team prepares to take the field for Monday’s game, and “we’ll see where we are on Tuesday” before making a decision on how to handle the starting quarterback situation leading into the week of preparation for the Browns.

Despite not practicing on Saturday, Cutler did take part in some drills.

With Cutler out of the lineup the last three games, veteran Josh McCown has filled in, winning only one of those outings while throwing for 1,038 yards and five touchdowns with only one interception. McCown owns a 2-2 record as a starter with an overall passer rating of 103.6, which currently ranks as the second-best in Bears single-season history. On Monday night, he gets the starting nod again.

In addition to missing the last three games, Cutler has been out of the lineup for portions of two games already. The quarterback has completed 63 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions for a passer rating of 88.4.

In other injury news, the Bears officially declared linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) out for Sunday’s contest. Trestman also announced that Major Wright, who missed last week’s game because of a sore hamstring, will start against the Cowboys.

Guard Kyle Long (ankle) and receiver Brandon Marshall (quadriceps) participated fully in Saturday’s workout and are listed as probable for Monday’s game. Safety Anthony Walters (groin) also participated fully but is listed as questionable.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall returned to practice Friday and participated fully after the club held him out of Thursday’s workout because of his strained quadriceps.

In addition, safety Major Wright participated fully Friday after being limited the day before, which means it’s likely he’ll start in Monday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) did not practice Friday, while quarterback Jay Cutler (ankle) and safety Anthony Walters (groin) took part in a limited capacity.

“Lance didn’t practice today. He was out there running around a little bit,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “Jay was limited, you saw that. Anthony Walters was limited, but looks better. Kyle [Long], Major and Brandon all worked. So that was good.”

For Dallas, cornerback Morris Claiborne (hamstring) and receiver Dwayne Harris (hamstring) were held out of practice.

Receiver Dez Bryant (back), linebacker Justin Durant (hamstring), tight end Gavin Escobar (hamstring) and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (neck) participated full for the Cowboys, along with linebackers DeVonte Holloman (neck) and Sean Lee (hamstring).