Chicago Bears: Nick Roach

LS Mannelly undecided about future

April, 8, 2014
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DES PLAINES, Ill. -- If Bears free-agent long snapper Patrick Mannelly does not return to Chicago for a franchise record 17th season, the team’s all-time leader in games played (245) would probably lean toward retirement.

That’s the scenario Mannelly laid out to reporters before being honored as the Bears’ 2013 Ed Block Courage Award winner at a luncheon held at Maryville Academy in suburban Des Plaines, Ill., an event attended by team matriarch Virginia McCaskey.

Mannelly
“It would be tough to put on another helmet for another team,” the Mannelly, 38, said.

The only member of the 1998 draft class that is still playing with their original team, Mannelly is almost three months into a four-to-six month rehabilitation process following offseason hip surgery.

Mannelly is scheduled to fly to California Tuesday night to continue his rehab work at EXOS in San Diego -- he is no longer under contract with the Bears and cannot use the facilities at Halas Hall -- but the veteran long snapper is undecided about his future.

"As athletes you always think you can play forever and I’ve been lucky to play for a long time," Mannelly said. "But I really want to listen to my body and see what happens. You always want to play forever. Your heart wants to play forever. Your mind wants to play forever. But we'll see.

"I would feel bad if I didn’t give it everything I had and [slacked] in the offseason. I’m not going to do that. I truly want to find out. I want to put myself in a position where I get sore again and feel hurt every day and see how much I enjoy it and how I bounce back the next morning.”

The Bears are expected to offer Mannelly a one-year contract if he decides to continue for another season, although a drop-dead date has not been set for Mannelly to make a final decision.

“We haven’t really set anything in stone for that,” Mannelly said. “I have some dates in my mind that I want to set to reach certain plateaus and goals to get ready for the season. I’ll leave those dates to me but we will see.”

If Mannelly’s recovery goes according to plan, he could theoretically return to the field when the Bears hold their organized team activities in late May and early June. But the Bears had to protect themselves at the position and agreed to terms on a three-year deal with former CFL long snapper Chad Rempel on Monday.

“It’s a smart move,” Mannelly said. “Phil Emery should do that. I’ll be 39 this year and I don’t know if I’m going to be back. They need to take care of their roster and that’s the most important thing.”

The Ed Block Courage Award is given out annually to one player on all 32 NFL teams who best exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage and serves as an inspiration in the locker room. Teammates vote for the award. Ed Block Courage Award winners symbolize professionalism, great strength and dedication, and are considered role models in the community.

Past Bears recipients of the Ed Block Courage Award include: Nick Roach (2012), Brian Urlacher (2011), Anthony Adams (2010), Israel Idonije (2009) and Charles Tillman (2008).

The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation promotes the prevention of child abuse by raising awareness and assisting agencies that provide for the care and treatment of abused children.

As expected, no extra picks for the Bears

March, 24, 2014
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Only nine NFL teams have received fewer compensatory draft picks than the Chicago Bears since the system of awarding extra picks was implemented in 1994.

And that won't change this year.

The Bears were not given any additional selections in the upcoming draft. Not that they were expecting any.

Compensatory picks are based on the previous offseason's net losses in free agency. In 2013, they offset their major free-agent losses -- guard Jermon Bushrod (who signed with the New Orleans Saints) and linebacker Nick Roach (Oakland Raiders) -- by signing free-agent tight end Martellus Bennett to a four-year, $20.4 million contract.

Since 1994, the Bears have received 17 compensatory picks. Only Arizona (16), Kansas City (15), Carolina (14), the New York Jets (13), Washington (12), New Orleans (10), Denver (nine), Houston (nine) and Cleveland (six) have received fewer.

On Monday at the NFL annual meetings in Orlando, Fla., a total of 13 teams received 32 compensatory picks for this year's draft.

The Bears have seven selections in the upcoming draft. They own their own picks in each of the first six rounds and also have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' sixth-round pick, which they acquired in the trade for guard Gabe Carimi. They do not have their seventh-round pick, which they traded to the Dallas Cowboys for tight end Dante Rosario.

Patrick Mannelly wins Ed Block Award

March, 7, 2014
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Chicago Bears veteran long-snapper Patrick Mannelly has been voted the 2013 Ed Block Courage Award winner.

Mannelly will be presented with the award on April 8, at a luncheon held at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines.

The Ed Block Courage Award is given out annually to one player on all 32 NFL teams who best exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage and serves as an inspiration in the locker room. Teammates vote for the award. Ed Block Courage Award winners symbolize professionalism, great strength and dedication, and are considered role models in the community.

Past recipients of the Ed Block Courage Award include: Nick Roach (2012), Brian Urlacher (2011), Anthony Adams (2010), Israel Idonije (2009) and Charles Tillman (2008).

The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation promotes the prevention of child abuse by raising awareness and assisting agencies that provide for the care and treatment of abused children.

Mannelly holds the franchise record for seasons of service (16) and games played (245). He holds the honor of being the only player from the 1998 NFL draft (sixth round) that is still playing with the team that originally selected him. Mannelly has missed only 11 games in his career and has snapped the ball 2,282 times over the course of his illustrious career.

Mannelly, 38, is recovering from offseason hip surgery but is expected to be welcomed back to the Bears if he decides to play for a 17th season. The veteran long-snapper is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

Bears position outlook: Linebackers

January, 29, 2014
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Free agents: James Anderson, Blake Costanzo and D.J. Williams.

The good: Before suffering a minor shoulder fracture that forced him to miss seven games, veteran weakside linebacker Lance Briggs was in the midst of another Pro Bowl-caliber season. Despite sitting out almost the entire preseason due to a calf strain, Williams appeared to be stabilizing the position until he went on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle on Oct. 18. Anderson led the Bears with 129.5 tackles. Rookie second-round pick Jon Bostic, forced into the starting lineup because of all the injuries, had a solid game versus the Baltimore Ravens in November with eight tackles and one key interception. He could be an outside linebacker in 2014. Costanzo topped the Bears with 17 special-teams tackles.

The bad: Obviously, the injuries to Williams and Briggs really hurt, especially after the Bears decided to let veteran linebackers Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach leave the previous offseason. Bostic and fellow rookie Khaseem Greene predictably struggled on occasion when pressed into action as first-year players. The Bears' linebackers were often in the wrong place and out of their gaps, which played a role in the team having the worst run defense in the NFL. Even when Briggs returned late in the season, he was never the same.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Briggs has one year left on his current contract and is scheduled to count $6.5 million against the cap. The Bears really need a big year out of Briggs, so hopefully whatever unhappiness still lingers from the firing of Lovie Smith can be put aside for the greater good of the team. The last thing the Bears need is for Briggs’ contract to become a distraction in the offseason since the club has so many other holes to fill on defense. Bostic and Greene are locked in for the foreseeable future with cap hits below $1 million next year. Williams appears to be a prime candidate to return at another veteran minimum/incentive laden deal.

Draft priority: Moderate. Even with the selections of Bostic and Greene last year and the possible addition of Shea McClellin to the room in 2014, the Bears shouldn’t pass up a talented linebacker in the mid-to-late rounds if one remains on the board. There is a chance Costanzo leaves in free agency, meaning the Bears could have a large hole on their coverage teams. Bottom line: There is always value in selecting a good linebacker, especially given the ages/contractual statuses of Briggs, Williams and Anderson.
Brian UrlacherAl Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesThe Bears might miss Brian Urlacher's presence on the field, but they might be better as a linebacking corps.
The initial shock of Brian Urlacher's absence quickly vanished once the Chicago Bears started on-field workouts during the offseason, and despite the linebacker's tremendous contributions over the years, it's unlikely the team will miss him much once the season starts.

A little insensitive, perhaps, but that's the reality of a transient NFL.

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Besides that, the linebacking corps may have become a better unit with the subtraction of Urlacher paired with the additions of athletic veterans such as D.J. Williams and James Anderson along with rookies Jonathan Bostic and Khaseem Greene. But what about the defense as a whole, which goes into the season without Lovie Smith or Rod Marinelli, the architects of the unit, and Urlacher, the quarterback of the defense?

It's easy to compare the numbers between Urlacher and the departed Nick Roach with Anderson and Williams, who appear at this point more suited to play the run-and-hit style Tucker likes in his linebackers, while giving the team more potential than Urlacher and Roach as pass rushers.

Over the past three years, Urlacher and Roach combined for 5.5 sacks, while Williams and Anderson came together for 15.5 sacks. It's worth noting that with Smith, the Bears didn't utilize linebackers extensively to blitz. It's also noteworthy that Williams and Anderson produced 10 more sacks than Urlacher and Roach over the past three years despite playing in a combined eight fewer games.

Williams played in just seven games in 2012 as a result of multiple suspensions, but produced 10.5 sacks in 2010 and 2011, in addition to 164 tackles.
Even with Williams playing just seven games, he and Anderson posted 106 more tackles than Urlacher and Roach from 2010-12.

Still, the numbers don't illustrate the intangibles Urlacher brought to the team. Urlacher's ability to bring players together, his immense knowledge of the defense and the NFL, his all-Pro past, which likely came in handy when articulating to younger players the expectations for how to play defense as a Chicago Bear. Those are the qualities this defense will miss most with Urlacher not on the field.

It's unknown whether that absence will prove detrimental, but it doesn't appear that will be the case.

With established veterans such as Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers, and Tim Jennings, the Bears already own a strong nucleus with up-and-coming players sprinkled in such as Henry Melton and Chris Conte. The team certainly revamped the linebacking corps, but the team made sure to do that with two more established vets in Williams and Anderson.

So for the fans, yes, the absence of Urlacher might hurt. For the team, though, it should be business as usual.

On the Bears' LBs and O-line

April, 1, 2013
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The Chicago Bears opened the "voluntary" portion of their offseason program Monday, having made a series of mid-level moves last week that re-organized their linebacker group and effected a swap at right guard. After catching up on the rest of the division, let's dig a bit deeper into the Bears' moves.

After bidding farewell to middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (free agent) and strong-side linebacker Nick Roach (Oakland Raiders), the Bears signed free agents D.J. Williams and James Anderson. Both players received one-year contracts that at most will cost the Bears about $3 million combined, which should tell you all you need to know about the permanence of that situation. (Anderson signed for $1.25 million, while Williams will earn up to $1.75 million, according to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.)

Williams' natural position is on the weak side, where Lance Briggs plays. So at the moment, he appears the most likely candidate to replace Urlacher in 2013. He will turn 31 in July and might be best-suited for an inside role at this point in his career. Anderson, who turns 30 in September, could wind up in Roach's old position.

I don't know if the Bears will alter their draft priorities after signing Williams and Anderson, but I don't think it should. If anything, what the Bears have done is provide a bridge to their next generation of linebackers. When the season ends, all three of their presumed starters -- Williams, Anderson and Briggs -- will be at least 30.

The Bears might no longer face the urgency of drafting an immediate starter at either position, but their need for long-term replacements at all three linebacker positions is no less acute. In some cases, a rookie can earn a starting job midway through the season if not before. Regardless, the position remains a high priority in this month's draft.

Meanwhile, it's fair for the moment to consider Matt Slauson as the replacement for right guard Lance Louis, who signed a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins worth $1.603 million. I'm guessing the Bears didn't want to commit long-term to Louis while he rehabilitates his torn ACL, but it's only fair to point out he was the team's best offensive lineman last season. Slauson started 48 consecutive games over three seasons for the salary cap-strapped New York Jets, but he'll need to be a pretty successful free-agent signing to match Louis' pre-injury play from last season.

Note: The Bears got a head-start in their offseason program division because the NFL has a different schedule for teams with new coaches. During the next two weeks, players can participate in strength-and-conditioning workouts, as well as rehabilitation. Chicago will have a voluntary pre-draft minicamp from April 16-18, will start organized team activities (OTAs) on May 13 and have its mandatory minicamp from June 11-13.
James Anderson and D.J. WilliamsAP PhotoThe Bears figure to be more athletic at linebacker with the additions of James Anderson and D.J. Williams.
Naturally, nostalgia and familiarity lead to death-blow thinking when pondering the face of the Chicago Bears' new linebacking corps sans Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach.

But a strong debate can be made that new additions D.J. Williams and James Anderson might represent a considerable upgrade at the position.

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A free agent, Roach bolted Chicago for the Oakland Raiders on March 15. Less than a week later, the Bears announced March 20 that they couldn't come to an agreement with Urlacher, the face of the defense for 13 years. In a statement, general manager Phil Emery said "both sides decided to move forward."

The Bears wasted little time in doing so. Two days after the Urlacher announcement, the Bears signed Williams, a nine-year veteran. Two days later, the club signed seven-year vet Anderson, giving it a trio of starting linebackers -- with Williams and perennial Pro Bowler Lance Briggs also in the mix -- that possesses experience, and likely more athleticism than the group that featured Roach and Urlacher alongside Briggs over the years.

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Brian Urlacher decision: If not now, when?

March, 20, 2013
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UrlacherRob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsThe Chicago Bears and Brian Urlacher failed to reach an agreement on a new contract.

PHOENIX -- The Chicago Bears' chairman wanted Brian Urlacher back in 2013. So did the Bears' coaching staff. So why did the team announce Wednesday evening that it was unable to reach a contract agreement with Urlacher, presumably ending his 13-year tenure with the team?

Let's go back to the place we started this conversation in January. If there were ever a time to make a clean break from a franchise player, it's during the kind of transition the Bears are experiencing. The arrival of new coach Marc Trestman, and the breakup of a defensive scheme that extended back almost a decade, provided a logical and relatively controversy-free departure point for an icon in the twilight of his career.

The way I see it, if you're going to have a transition year, you might as well pile on as many of the changes as you can for the foreseeable future. A "transition year" doesn't necessarily have to be a "rebuilding year," but the Bears were already going to be dealing with change in 2013. The faster you deal with it, the quicker you can move forward.

If anything, I've been surprised at how far the Bears took this process. I envisioned them emerging from their pre-combine organizational meetings and informing Urlacher they would be moving on. Clearly, however, Trestman and his staff got a look at the Bears' depth -- or lack thereof -- and realized there could be some short-term pain associated with Urlacher's departure. Earlier Wednesday, I wondered if Trestman wanted Urlacher back to serve as a quasi-mediator between the new coaching staff and the locker room upon which he held a solid grip.

Coaches, of course, are trained to value today and tomorrow -- not next year and beyond. It's the job of the Bears' front office, and especially general manger Phil Emery, to consider the bigger picture. And it's clear, no matter what might be said publicly, that the Bears wanted to jump-start the process of rebuilding a linebacker corps that has remained largely intact for years.

How do you navigate the complex issue of nudging out a franchise icon who still wants to play, while also juggling the short-term desires of the coaching staff and the wishes -- detached or otherwise -- of ownership? You make an offer that you're pretty sure will be refused.

I'm not a mind-reader. I can't tell you for sure that Emery followed that a strategy that has been used many other times in NFL history. But the outside clues sure do suggest it. Urlacher, in fact, told Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune that he received a take-it-or-leave-it one-year contract offer worth a maximum of $2 million.

You and I might agree that's a reasonable value for a middle linebacker with a balky knee and 13 NFL seasons of wear on his body. But it represented about a 75 percent pay cut from Urlacher's 2012 compensation, a drop that few Hall of Fame players would agree to. Urlacher told the Tribune it was "a slap in the face." For context, consider that the Baltimore Ravens paid now-retired middle linebacker Ray Lewis $4.95 million to play his 17th and final season in 2012.

And before you bring it up, let's not blame the Bears' tight salary-cap situation for this decision. Urlacher's cap figure wouldn't have been any more than $2 million in 2013 under that offer. If they wanted, the Bears could have used any number of salary cap tricks to maintain that figure while offering Urlacher more cash. They didn't. They wanted him back only on the terms of a clearance sale -- if at all.

Let's be clear: There will be short-term pain that will follow this decision. The Bears must replace not only Urlacher but also strong-side linebacker Nick Roach, who signed with the Oakland Raiders, at the same time.

In a best-case scenario, the Bears will open the season with one of the draft's top middle linebackers -- perhaps Georgia's Alec Ogletree or even Notre Dame's Manti Te'o -- in the starting lineup. It might take several offseasons to reassemble a credible group of starting linebackers.

In the end, the Bears had ignored this pending transition long enough. Ideally, they would have had an heir on the roster already to take Urlacher's job. Now, they have an urgency that no NFL team prefers. But if not now, when? The urgency would only increase.

Brian Urlacher as a transition figure

March, 20, 2013
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PHOENIX -- Four days at the NFL owners meeting has helped clear up a portion of Brian Urlacher's continuing contract standoff with the Chicago Bears.

Urlacher
We know that chairman George McCaskey wants Urlacher back with the team but won't influence the final decision of general manager Phil Emery.

It's now overtly clear that the Bears' coaching staff wants Urlacher back as well, a topic we've discussed generally but was confirmed Wednesday by coach Marc Trestman. In discussing the issue at the NFL owners meeting, Trestman said: "We all understand I think that he can help us on the field. I've said that, and I've said that to Brian."

Given the current state of the Bears' roster, I understand why the coaching staff would want Urlacher back. Neither of the players who have started at the position over the past three years -- Urlacher and Nick Roach -- are under contract. (Roach signed last week with the Oakland Raiders.) There really isn't a viable starter on the roster, and it's never ideal to enter a draft with a desperate need for a starter at any position.

But in addition to providing continuity at middle linebacker, I also wonder if Urlacher could provide Trestman an essential service during his rookie season as coach. Assuming Urlacher bought in to Trestman's program and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker's scheme, he could serve as a locker room salesman and messenger to help smooth the transition from the previous regime.

At a time of uncertainty, many Bears players would be looking to Urlacher -- who has long been the face of the franchise -- to set a tone and take the lead. If Urlacher enthusiastically embraces Trestman and Tucker, chances are better that the rest of the locker room would follow suit.

If Trestman wants Urlacher back, my guess is he thinks there is a good chance of buy-in. And Urlacher's interest in returning suggests he feels the same way. Here's what Trestman said when I asked him about Urlacher serving in the conduit role:

"There is no doubt that the No. 1 thing is he can help our football team on the field. Everything else certainly brings great value to our team. No doubt about it. I'm just hopeful it will be resolved. And it will be resolved. As a coaching staff, we've just got to trust the process."

That process, to be clear, is financial. The Bears have removed emotion from the equation and have acknowledged the on-field aspect. So now we wait.

Source: Roach 4-year deal worth $13M

March, 18, 2013
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CHICAGO -- Former Chicago Bears linebacker Nick Roach signed a four-year, $13 million contract with the Oakland Raiders that included a total guarantee of $5 million, according to documents obtained by ESPNChicago.com.

Roach received a $3.185 signing bonus when he signed with the Raiders on Friday.

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Could Roach exit help Urlacher return?

March, 15, 2013
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Nick Roach's departure might increase the chances for Brian Urlacher to return to the Chicago Bears in 2013, because given the salary cap situation the team couldn’t afford both.

But those prospects don’t increase much.

The team wants Urlacher back. But still, his return will have to come at the Bears’ price. The cap situation dictates as much.

“In terms of everybody that fills a slice of that (salary) pie has an impact on the other pieces of that pie in terms of your overall team. It’s not only this year. It’s in the future,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said. “So definitely we’ve got to be thorough and diligent in taking each step slow in terms of how that pie stays together, and what allows us the best opportunity to compete and win a championship.”

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Source: LB Roach signs with Raiders

March, 15, 2013
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CHICAGO -- The Oakland Raiders agreed to terms with Chicago Bears free-agent linebacker Nick Roach, according to an NFL source.

Read the entire story.
The dust began settling Wednesday for the Chicago Bears following their triumphant dive into free agency. After signing left tackle Jermon Bushrod (five years, $39.5 million) and tight end Martellus Bennett (four years, $20 million), the Bears cut ties with three veterans and watched a fourth begin taking visits elsewhere.

Tight ends Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth, along with defensive tackle Matt Toeaina, will all be set free. Their departures will carve out a modest salary-cap savings, a little over $5 million, but it's still fair to ask how much more the Bears can do this offseason given their financial constraints.

"We are up against the cap," general manager Phil Emery told reporters. "There isn't a lot of wiggle room."

Whether it was genuine or for the consumption of agents, Emery painted a limited picture of the Bears' future action.

Emery: "Are we going to be able to go out and sign in the UFA market a starting guard? No."

As a result, linebacker Nick Roach planned a visit to the Oakland Raiders. Meanwhile, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher's future remains in limbo.

"We've approached him about coming back," Emery said. "As far as working it out, that's an ongoing process."

As with most things, free agency is a give and take. The Bears have taken two of the best players off the market. As a result, they'll have to give in other areas. That's usually how it works.

Source: Roach visits Raiders

March, 13, 2013
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Chicago Bears free-agent linebacker Nick Roach is visiting the Oakland Raiders, according to a source familiar with the situation.

A source said eight teams have expressed interest in Roach, who figures to get a bump from his $1.715 million base salary in 2012.

Roach finished sixth on the Bears with 84 tackles, although he usually came off the field during passing downs in favor of an extra defensive back.
UrlacherRob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsVeterans are going to be look at how the Bears handle Brian Urlacher's situation.
It was all quiet on the Brian Urlacher front after the middle linebacker's agents reportedly submitted a contract proposal to the Bears on Thursday evening.

With the Bears plagued by limited salary cap space, both sides will need to be creative to get this deal done. But make no mistake: every defensive veteran on the squad is paying close attention to how the Bears handle the Urlacher situation.

With a massive leadership void on offense, the loss of Urlacher could be a damaging blow to the locker room. But the real issue is whether the Bears still think Urlacher can play at a high enough level to help the defense in 2013. If the answer to that question is "yes," then it would be wise for both sides to find common ground, and do so quickly.

Here's a list of the Bears unrestricted free agents, and their prospects for returning in 2013:

Nick Roach, linebacker: He has generated substantial interest since the NFL's legal-tampering period commenced late Friday evening. Eight have expressed interest in Roach potentially filling their respective voids at either strong side or middle linebacker, and unless the Bears make a late push before the official start of free agency at 3 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Roach is expected to field several concrete offers.

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