There should be no doubt about the urgency with which Chicago is approaching the 2010 season -- at least, not after the first five minutes of the NFL's free agent bidding season.
In that time span, the Bears secured visits by arguably two of the top free agents available: Defensive end Julius Peppers and running back Chester Taylor. According to the Chicago Tribune, Bears coach Lovie Smith flew Friday night to Charlotte, N.C., to pick up Peppers and bring him back to Chicago. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears will also host tight end Brandon Manumaleuna.
Both Peppers and Taylor are expected to be in town Friday, and let's make something clear: Elite free agents usually have a pretty good idea of the contract they'll be offered before agreeing to take a first visit. It's obvious the Bears are willing to shell out premium money in an effort to improve their pass rush and add a key weapon to new offensive coordinator Mike Martz's passing game.
When he's interested in playing, Peppers is one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the NFL. Other than quarterbacks, elite pass rushers are arguably the most precious commodity in the NFL. The Bears couldn't make a single move that would improve their defense more. And with no salary cap this season, there is nothing but the well-protected cash of the McCaskey family at risk.
Taylor, meanwhile, is a perfect fit for Martz's offense. He developed into a premium third-down receiver over the past three years in Minnesota and is well-versed in pass-protection responsibilities. Should something happen to starter Matt Forte, Taylor is more than capable of filling in on a full-time basis.
Peppers and Taylor alone won't lift the Bears to an NFC North title. But their visits are illustrative of the dramatic and, yes, desperate times in Chicago. The Bears have missed the playoffs for three consecutive years and the McCaskeys will almost certainly install a new football regime if that streak extends to four. Having traded away their first- and second-round draft picks, the Bears have no other avenue to improve their personnel other than through premium free agent additions.
Kudos to the Bears for recognizing their situation and taking a big early swing. Stranger things have happened, but it's quite possible both Peppers and Taylor will be under contract by this time Friday. I would consider it a coup.