NFC North: Free Agency: Best and Worst

Here's the third part of our look at some of Chicago's best and worst free-agent acquisitions over the past five years. Feel free to add some of your own in the comments section:

Good: Martellus Bennett
Position: Tight end
Contract: Four years, $20.4 million, $9.215 million guaranteed
Years of service with Bears: 2013-present

Bennett
Recap: The Bears set out last year in free agency to find a dynamic middle-of-the-field threat and landed the affable Bennett, who quickly fit in with quarterback Jay Cutler, receiver Brandon Marshall and the other offensive players. Bennett also established a relationship with head coach Marc Trestman, who played catch with the tight end almost every day after practice. Bennett set career highs last season in receptions (65) and receiving yardage (759). Bennett also tied a career high in receiving touchdowns (five). Bennett ranked eighth among tight ends in receptions, tied for ninth in yards and tied for 12th in TDs. He is now one of eight tight ends in the league to gain more than 1,000 receiving yards (1,385) and catch 10 TD passes over the last two years. Bennett's 65 catches ranked second in franchise history for a tight end, behind Hall of Famer Mike Ditka (75 catches in 1964).

"I feel like I'm the most attractive person on anybody's offense, no matter what team I'm on," Bennett said. "When you look this good, how could you not want to be around? I'm the GQ of football. I just want to have a better season. I just want to be the best possible Martellus. I'm excited about the future and the things that I'm doing here."

Bad: Chilo Rachal
Position: Left guard
Contract: One year, $700,000
Years of service with Bears: 2012

Recap: Rachal supplanted Chris Spencer as the starter after the second game of the 2012 season and started in eight consecutive contests before a horrid outing at San Francisco cost him his job. With Jay Cutler out due to a concussion, backup Jason Campbell started at quarterback and took a beating during a 32-7 loss. Campbell absorbed six sacks. Soon after, former offensive coordinator Mike Tice announced he was benching Rachal and fellow offensive lineman Gabe Carimi during a team meeting. Rachal didn't take the demotion well and ended up leaving Halas Hall after meeting with former coach Lovie Smith. Rachal was expected to attend a team meeting the next day but missed it. The club felt that Rachal handled the demotion unprofessionally but expressed concerned about his mental state. Eventually, the Bears put Rachal on the reserve/left team list, making him ineligible to play for the rest of the season, which was interesting considering Lance Louis was lost for the year in the team's next game against the Minnesota Vikings. Rachal never played another down for the Chicago Bears. The Arizona Cardinals signed Rachal last April to a one-year deal worth $715,000, but the team released him at the end of training camp. Rachal hasn't played a regular-season snap since the fiasco at San Francisco on Nov. 19, 2012.

The first wave of free agency has come to a close, but the Chicago Bears still aren't done adding players. We anticipate the club continuing to build the roster all the way through free agency, and even after the draft.

But in the meantime, we decided to spend this week taking a look at some of the best and worst free-agent acquisitions made over the past five years by the Chicago Bears. Feel free to add some of your own in the comments section:

Good: Julius Peppers

Position: Defensive end

Contract: Six years, $84 million

Years of service with Bears: 2010-13

Peppers
Recap: Peppers' tenure with the Bears didn't end as well as anyone would have liked, with the club releasing him March 11. But Peppers was arguably the club's best free-agent acquisition over the last five years. Upon signing a blockbuster deal with the club in 2010, Peppers reeled off 18.5 sacks and 105 tackles over the next two seasons. Peppers' tackle numbers dropped in 2011 and 2012, but in both those seasons, he racked up at least 11 sacks before a disappointing 2013 campaign that -- in conjunction with a base salary of $13.9 million in 2014 -- basically facilitated his exit from Chicago. In four years with the Bears, Peppers started in every game (64), generating 37.5 sacks in addition to making the Pro Bowl during all but one season (2013) during his tenure with the club. In all, Peppers has posted 118.5 career sacks, which ranks second in the NFL since his entry (2002). Four days after Peppers' exit from Chicago, the Green Bay Packers signed him to a three-year contract. Although his production waned toward the end of his tenure in Chicago, Peppers is expected to be a productive contributor for the Packers in 2014.

Bad: Sam Hurd

Position: Wide receiver

Contract: Three years, $5.1 million

Years of service with Bears: 2011

Hurd
Hurd
Recap: It's not that Chicago expected significant contributions when it signed Hurd to a three-year deal in July of 2011. After all, he was just expected to contribute on special teams and as a backup receiver. But it's probably fair to say that Hurd's arrest on federal drug charges in December of 2011 played at least a small role in the club's decision to fire former general manager Jerry Angelo. Hurd caught eight passes for 109 yards, and returned one kickoff for 24 yards in his one season with the Bears. The embarrassment to the organization and the circus atmosphere created with Hurd's arrest far outweighed his insignificant on-field contributions. Team president Ted Philips at the time said the Hurd situation didn't play into Angelo's firing, but the receiver was certainly viewed as one of if not the worst of Bears acquisitions made during the former GM's watch. Last November, Hurd was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for his involvement in marijuana and cocaine trafficking.


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