- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Here are three things to watch as we approach the start of free agency late Thursday night.
1. Greg Olsen: It's no secret Olsen is rumored to be on the trading block -- quite possibly by his own design. I still think Olsen is a tremendous talent who could really help the Bears, but if he's that desperate to leave town and the Bears could get a second-round pick in return, Jerry Angelo would be foolish not to pull the trigger. Plus, if Angelo does this favor for Olsen, maybe Drew Rosenhaus could help the Bears land another one of his clients: Antrel Rolle. That's pure speculation on my part, but don't be naive enough to think that sort of politics doesn't occur in free agency. If Olsen is dealt, the Bears would be wise to start working on an extension for Desmond Clark, who has only one year left on his deal. If the Bears are concerned about Clark's durability, we should point out the veteran started 67 straight games heading into 2009. The Bears are interested in free agent Brandon Manumaleuna -- first reported by the Chicago Tribune -- who would fit in nicely with Clark and Kellen Davis in the event Olsen is the one to go.
2. Julius Peppers vs. Aaron Kampman: Even though he's coming off an ACL injury, I'd still take Kampman over Peppers in this free agent market. Kampman will be less expensive, and his signing would provide the Bears with more flexibility to address other positions like safety, running back and maybe offensive line. But more important than money, Kampman is a guy with something to prove. He was the forgotten man when the Packers switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense last year, a decision he likely detested but never complained about publicly. That shows me character. Nothing against Peppers -- a fantastic athlete -- but I would never commit huge coin to somebody who takes plays off. If the Bears can get Peppers at a reasonable price, I'm all for it. But if they have to break the bank, then they should take a pass.
3. Safety: If the Bears can land Rolle, great. If they can't, Ryan Clark is the next best option in my opinion. Not only is Clark a ferocious hitter, he's a winner who played next to one of the greatest safeties in the game: Troy Polamalu. It'll be tough to pry Clark out of Pittsburgh, but he beats the alternatives -- Michael Huff, Jermaine Phillips or Kerry Rhodes. As for strong safety; are the Bears really committed to Danieal Manning? They've toyed around with Manning so much over the years, it's tough to believe he'll be given a fair shot to play in the box. Before deciding to give Manning the low tender, the Bears did offer the defensive back a new two-year deal, but that's still not a guarantee he's in their future plans. Let's see if there's a team out there willing to give up a third round pick to sign Manning. Would the Bears match the offer sheet? Given the depth at the safety position in this upcoming draft, my guess would be no.
Three things Bears fans should watch heading into free agency.