Chicago Bears: Kahlil Bell
Bell had 12 carries for 32 yards this season after he was signed in the wake of Matt Forte's ankle injury.
The Bears were impressed with Bell last season as he rushed 79 times for 337 yards and showed flashes, but he they released him in the preseason after he reportedly refused to take a pay cut.
Eldridge was a fifth-round pick in 2010 by the Colts out of Oklahoma. He had 14 catches in two seasons. He was signed by the Rams in May and suspended for the first four games of this season for violating the league policy on performance-enhancing substances, according to NFL.com.
The Chicago Tribune first reported the news.
“There’s a commitment to the run and that’s good,” Smith said. “But we still need to get more production from our running game.”
Running back Matt Forte averaged 5 yards per carry in the opener against the Indianapolis Colts, and finished with 80 yards, which ranks as the club’s best individual rushing performance through the first four games. So although the team has posted a 6-4 record over the past four years when they generate between 75 and 99 yards on the ground collectively, the Bears are 8-3 in that span with a 100-yard rusher.
Bush last carried the ball for a 2-yard gain at the 10:40 mark of the fourth quarter on a first-and-goal play from the Rams' 6-yard line.
"We have a lot of guys that got a little banged up (Sunday) from the physical play of the game," Smith said. "No, we were playing Kahlil Bell before that. Mike took some good shots. You know, he came out one play on a hard hit but it was that type of game.
"It was good to see Kahlil Bell to get some reps. Kahlil can do some of the same things we ask Michael to (do). I still think there is a place for Armando Allen too, which gives you a totally different body type playing."
Bush had 55 yards rushing on 18 attempts. Bell carried the ball 10 times for 20 yards while Allen had just one run for 1 yard.
Smith said on Monday he is "hopeful" Forte can practice this week and be able to play next Monday night at Dallas.
Matt Forte's right ankle injury might not be of the more severe "high" sprain, as Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith said Monday morning. But to me the team already revealed its concerns about Forte's short-term availability by re-signing veteran Kahlil Bell over the weekend.
If the Bears thought Forte would be ready for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams, they probably would not have felt compelled to make a roster move. Backups Michael Bush and Armando Allen are healthy and available for extended duty if necessary, but it's reasonable to think Forte might not play. Smith, in fact, acknowledged Forte was still "sore" Monday morning.
The Bears are scheduled to resume practicing Monday afternoon after a three-day layoff following last Thursday's 23-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
But make no mistake, Bell probably fits the mold of what the Bears would need at the position if starter Matt Forte or primary backup Michael Bush suffered injuries, more so than Allen or Booker. Bell possesses the ability to run between the tackles, is elusive in space, and has skills as a blocker, in addition to an ability to contribute on special teams and as a receiver out of the backfield.
Simply stated, he’s more well-rounded (and proven with the Bears) than Allen and Booker.
But it’s always about the money. Always.
Bell re-signed with the Bears in April for $1.26 million for one season. The Chicago Tribune reported Bell declined to accept a pay cut to $700,000 and asked for his release.
Bell appeared in 13 games with the Bears last season, including three starts, and rushed for 337 yards. He rushed for 557 yards over three seasons in Chicago.
Bell signed the low tender offer worth $1.26 million over one season, as opposed to a long-term deal. The Bears tendered a qualifying offer to the veteran back in March.
Bell broke the news on his Twitter account on Wednesday afternoon.
"Just re-sign[ed] with the Bears today going on year number 4!!! God is so great. Blessed beyond belief!!!"
Bell appeared in 13 games with the Bears last season, including three starts, and rushed for 337 yards.
Bell appeared in 13 games with the Bears last season, including three starts, and rushed for 337 yards.
The low tender is for $1.26 million, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Matt Forte shook off disappointment in contract negotiations and trepidation about his long-term future with the franchise in 2011, and put together his first Pro Bowl campaign before a knee injury knocked him out of the last five games.
All throughout last season and thus far this offseason, contract negotiations between Forte -- a pending unrestricted free agent -- and the Bears dominated most discussions regarding the franchise. The question now is whether the sides can consummate a deal. New general manager Phil Emery declined to tip the club’s hand in negotiations, which are expected to pick up in the coming days.
Team president Ted Phillips said there’s no way the Bears let Forte hit the open market.
“We’d like to [work out a long-term contract with Forte],” Phillips said. “But as Phil [Emery] pointed out, we obviously will at least consider placing the franchise tag on him.”
That’s fine by Forte, as long as the team uses the tag to buy it more time to strike a long-term deal.
The team will have to designate Forte its franchise player -- or work out an extension with the running back -- between Feb. 20 and Mar. 5. If the Bears tag him, they have until July 16 to sign Forte to a new contract.
The running back hinted that “people probably wouldn’t know where I was” if the sides don’t reach a long-term agreement.
THE CURRENT ROSTER
Matt Forte: Despite contentious negotiations with the team prior to the season opener, Forte decided to prove his worth on the field by out-producing players such as Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and Oakland’s Darren McFadden -- both earning more than 10 times Forte’s 2011 base salary -- in total yards from scrimmage (1,487) despite missing more than a month of action.
Forte finished the season ranked 10th in the NFL -- at all positions -- in total yards from scrimmage, and led the league in that statistical category prior to suffering a sprained knee on Dec. 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Given the team’s expected shift to more of a run-oriented offense, Forte’s value remains high. Emery has already touched base with Forte’s agent, Adisa Bakari, and it appears the team will finally make a legitimate effort at striking an agreement with the Pro Bowl running back.
Bears coach Lovie Smith pointed out that Barber’s injury history is cause for concern. Lingering calf issues led to Barber being inactive in five games.
Kahlil Bell: If Bell didn’t outright earn the No. 2 job behind Forte with his play down the stretch, he should at least receive a real opportunity to compete for the spot in training camp.
A restricted free agent, Bell likely will receive a low tender from the team, which might lead to Barber’s departure, especially if the Bears also manage to sign Forte.
Bell averaged 4.3 yards per attempt in 2011 and produced his first 100-yard outing on Christmas at Green Bay. Interestingly, Bell blends some of the attributes of Forte (elusiveness) and Barber (power), which surely bodes well for his future with the Bears. Bell acknowledged that fumbles were somewhat of a problem during the season, but it’s not a situation that can’t be remedied.
Armando Allen: Could wind up sticking as the No. 3 running back if he can contribute on special teams. He showed promise in the final two games of 2011, rushing 11 times for 40 yards on Christmas against the Packers.
Because of Allen’s size -- 5 foot 10, 190 pounds -- he'll definitely need to use the offseason to add bulk and strength.
Tyler Clutts: The Bears entered last offseason looking for a true fullback, and they uncovered a gem in Clutts, a punishing lead blocker who can also be a threat out of the backfield (eight catches for 48 yards in 2011).
The lone fullback on the roster, Clutts also contributed on special teams in 2011, making three stops on coverage teams. His role may grow in the new Tice-led offense.
Robert Hughes: A Chicago native, Hughes spent time last season on the team’s practice squad and might be a longshot to make the 2012 roster. A strong showing in the preseason finale of 2011 led to Hughes winding up on the practice squad.
Bears free agents: Forte, Bell (restricted)
POTENTIAL FREE AGENT TARGETS
WHY THE BEARS MIGHT STAND PAT
Even if the Bears don’t sign Forte to an extension, they’ll still be on the hook for approximately $8 million with the franchise tag. Tack on Barber’s $1.9 million base salary and a likely tender offer for Bell, and the Bears will have more than $10 million committed to salaries of running backs.
So if the Bears decide to keep Barber and Bell, don’t expect them to make any moves in free agency at the position. The club may wind up cutting Barber loose and keeping Bell as the No. 2, while adding to the position with a late-round pick or undrafted free agent.
That leaves 14 players (unrestricted and restricted) set to come out of contract when the new league year and free agency begins at 3 p.m. CT on March 13.
Kahlil Bell, RB, restricted: Bell made a strong push over the final three weeks of the season, rushing for a career-high 121 yards on 23 carries versus the Green Bay Packers on Christmas night. He also fumbled the ball three times in the final two games (he lost one), but overall did a respectable job filling in for the injured Matt Forte and Marion Barber. It's unknown if another team will sign Bell to an offer sheet (which the Bears would have the opportunity to match), so right now it appears as if the running back will be back in Chicago for 2012, probably as the No. 2 tailback behind Forte.
Zack Bowman, CB, unrestricted: Bowman intercepted a team-high six passes in 2009 but never recovered after he lost his starting job early in 2010 to Tim Jennings. The 6-foot-1 defender seems better suited to play more man coverage, rather than in Lovie Smith's Cover 2, and would benefit from a fresh start somewhere else. His struggles versus Green Bay near the end of the regular season were grossly exaggerated. Bowman lined up in the required outside leverage technique the Bears were required to play in the red zone on two of those Packers touchdown receptions. Earlier that evening strong side linebacker Nick Roach was handcuffed the same way when Jermichael Finley ran a quick slant into the end zone. The Bears actually changed their red zone defense the following week at Minnesota to take away those quick slants. But by that point, the damage to Bowman's reputation had already been done.
Kellen Davis, TE, unrestricted: A good run blocker, a below average pass blocker and an average pass catcher who managed to haul in five touchdowns. The Bears got rid of Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark, in part, to allow Davis to flourish in the starting role. It never really happened. The best overall blocking tight end on the roster is Matt Spaeth, so if the Bears want to bring in a better receiving tight end, where does that leave Davis? But Davis is an excellent athlete and former draft choice, which helps his chances of sticking around.
Matt Forte, RB, unrestricted: Forte sounds as if he expects the Bears to stick him with the franchise tag. But the hope is both parties once again attempt to hammer out a long-term deal in the offseason. Forte bet on himself this season and made his first Pro Bowl. He's one of the top all-purpose rushers in the league, and with the Bears committed to running the ball more in 2012, Forte will continue to be a vital part of the offense. Surely given the importance of Forte to the franchise, the two sides can somehow find a way to reach some common ground. If not, it could be an ugly summer.
Corey Graham, CB, unrestricted: Graham tested the market last year and returned to the Bears. He will no doubt do the same this offseason, as the Pro Bowl special teams standout looks for a spot where he can contribute on defense. But money talks. The Bears better plan to make Graham a sweet offer if they expect him to come back. He displayed an ability to make impact plays during his stint at nickel back, and was supposed to play some safety Christmas night and defend Finley, but the Bears pulled the plug on the idea the Friday before the game. That probably doesn't help the situation from the Bears' standpoint.
Caleb Hanie, QB, unrestricted: Hanie is another player who could probably use a change of scenery after going 0-4 in place of the injured Jay Cutler. Perhaps the quarterback can find the right system that highlights his skills as a runner and on-the-move playmaker. But the first step is making sure to find a spot on somebody's training camp roster and then let the chips fall as they may.
Israel Idonije, DE, unrestricted: Although the Bears need to upgrade at defensive end, Idonije is a relatively productive player whom the Bears should make an attempt to re-sign and keep in the mix. There is nothing wrong with having a 5-8 sack a year guy in the rotation. Idonije is well-liked, plays hard and does a lot of good work in the community. Unless the Bears plan to completely overhaul the position (minus Julius Peppers, of course) then Idonije has a fairly good shot of signing yet another contract with the Bears.
Tim Jennings, CB, unrestricted: Jennings is looking for a significant raise from the $1.9 million base he earned in 2011. Keep that in mind. The Bears probably are looking to pay much more, but Jennings is a good player, especially in this scheme. Sure, he lacks height and drops way too many interceptions. But Jennings solidified one of the cornerback spots the last two years and is an aggressive tackler. For those reasons, the Bears might be inclined to make Jennings an offer. Whether the cornerback deems the offer acceptable is another story.
Amobi Okoye, DT, unrestricted: Okoye showed enough flashes to warrant another one- or two-year deal at moderate pay. He's still young and might be even better next year after a full offseason of working with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. But the Bears will need more than four sacks from Okoye next season.
Chris Massey, LS, unrestricted: Massey walked into a tough spot after Patrick Mannelly was lost for the year due to a torn ACL. He did OK. He didn't botch any snaps. But There won't be a need for Massey if Mannelly is 100 percent by the start of training camp, but it would be wise for the Bears to hang on to the veteran's phone number just in case.
Josh McCown, QB, unrestricted: McCown did enough in the final two games of the year to receive another one-year deal. He should enter training camp as the team's No. 3 quarterback, at the very least. He made the most of the opportunities given to him and should be commended. A good guy who fits in well inside the Bears locker room.
Brandon Meriweather, S, unrestricted: The former Patriot was an expensive mistake to the tune of $3.25 million total this season. The coaches don't seem to trust him. Unless something drastically changes between now and March, Meriweather's odds of returning for a second season in Chicago appear to be remote.
Craig Steltz, S, unrestricted: One of the pleasant surprises of the second half of the season. Despite being buried on the bench for much of the season, Steltz finished with 48 tackles, three tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, one sacks and was fourth on the team with 12 special teams stops. Steltz would like to remain in Chicago. The Bears should honor that request and give him a new deal. He earned it.
Roy Williams, WR, unrestricted: The mere notion Williams feels he "did enough" or "made enough plays" when the team failed to make the playoffs is insulting. The only real chemistry Williams showed was with McCown late in the year. News flash: Jay Cutler is going to be the Bears starting quarterback in 2012, not McCown. Williams isn't horrible, but he's not good enough to be guaranteed a roster spot or playing time. The Bears tried that last year and it backfired.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Here are five things we learned following the Bears 17-13 win at the Metrodome.
1. Mike Martz failed to help his cause: The Bears started a policy in 2010 prohibiting members of the media from talking to any assistant coaches after games, so it was impossible to ask Martz why it took so long to give left tackle J'Marcus Webb some help with Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. I wish I knew. When the Bears finally began to double- and triple-team Allen with tight ends Matt Spaeth and Kellen Davis, he became a nonfactor. But before that switch occurred in the second half, Allen had 3.5 sacks, destroying Webb in the process. I just don't trust Martz. He did the same thing in those early-season losses at New Orleans and Detroit: repeatedly calling for deep drops without even the benefit of a chip. I'll give Martz some credit for helping get Josh McCown game-ready the past two weeks, but the coordinator's overall body of work has been below average. There is no need for the Bears to embarrass Martz, just let him gracefully drift off into the sunset and not offer him a new contract. With all the turnover this year in the NFL, maybe he'll be able to land on his feet. If not, it's been a good run.
2. The Bears need to sign Kyle Orton: I think McCown did a solid job given the circumstances. His reward for the last two starts should be the Bears' No. 3 quarterback job next year. The No. 2 quarterback, if possible, needs to be Kyle Orton. That might not happen if Orton gets an offer to start somewhere in the league, but if he is available, pay the man to be Jay Cutler's primary backup. Orton wants to come to Chicago. He is held in very high regard by the veteran players in the Bears' locker room. It's the perfect fit. Time for the Bears to make that happen. They tried to claim Orton off waivers, and it didn't work out. But if Orton hits free agency, the first number to pop up on his cell phone should be from Halas Hall.
3. Tim Jennings made a strong case: Just when it looked like Jennings would not be re-signed, he went out and had a really good game in Minnesota. Jennings always tackles well, but he drops too many easy interceptions. That, and his lack of height are his most notable limitations as a player. Of course you'd like to have more size at cornerback, but shouldn't the Bears at least make Jennings an offer and see what happens? Odds are he'd like to test the open market, so maybe he goes elsewhere based on his personal preference. But based on his play the last two years, I wouldn't be so quick to push Jennings out the door. He's a good player.
4. Kahlil Bell is not ready to be a full-time starter: This is not meant to slight Bell. Like McCown, he made the most of his opportunities the final few weeks of the regular season. But he put the ball on the ground three times the past two weeks. That can't happen. If contract talks with Matt Forte go sideways, the Bears need to bring in another veteran to start or at the very least split time with Bell. Bell, set to be a restricted free agent in the offseason, is a promising player who deserves a more prominent role in the Bears’ offense in 2012. But I would not feel comfortable with him as the Bears' feature back next fall. He should be penciled in as the No. 2 and let's see how things play out with Forte.
5. Brian Urlacher's injury could be a blessing in disguise: Urlacher's left knee injury looked horrible when it happened in the fourth quarter, but thankfully he was able to walk off the field under his own power. However, there has been a trend recently with Urlacher: he's had two great seasons coming off an injury and a lockout. Maybe the time off is good for the middle linebacker. Obviouslyy, Urlacher is going to have to rehab the knee, so it's not as if he's going on some sort of vacation. But would it be the worst thing in the world for Urlacher to rest up and miss the offseason training program and organized team activities? Didn't seem to hurt him this year. Just a thought, because I have a feeling the Bears are going to need Urlacher more than ever in 2012, especially when you take into account the uncertain status of Lance Briggs and the Bears' struggles to draft at the linebacker position.