The offseason is here. While it comes way too soon, it is an enjoyable time to watch your favorite team get built and ready next season.
The Bears have a long road ahead of them. First, they have to find their coach. Then, their focus goes to upgrading multiple positions, putting together another solid draft class and become playoff contenders. Pressure? No doubt. Ryan Pace has to deliver results after just 14 wins in his first three years on the job. And that road starts right now!
The Bears have multiple players they should retain from their free agent class. So lets talk a look at those free agents and the likelyhood they return.
Prince Amukamara (28 years old)
Prince Amukamara had himself a pretty good year. Even without an interception, the seven year veteran had seven pass breakups and at times, rarely got the ball thrown his way.
A big part of Amukamara’s game is his physicality. He is not afraid to be aggressive with the wide receiver at the line of scrimmage and you can always count on him to come up and tackle in the run game, 48 tackles this season.
Amukamara said on Monday that the “arrow is going up” for this team and praised general manager Ryan Pace for the work he has done drafting the right young guys for the future.
One of the Bears biggest needs is cornerback. The Bears only have two cornerbacks on the books for next season, Marcus Cooper and Cre’Von LeBlanc.
Amukamara got $7M AAV last season. I could see him demanding more on the market especially to teams that show a good amount of interest.
Would I re-sign Prince Amukamara: Yes
Zach Miller (33)
Zach Miller suffered that horrific injury in New Orleans this year and almost lost his leg. Just few weeks ago, Miller was able to walk in the Bears training room under his own power. It was truly remarkable the work the doctors were able to do in such a timely fashion.
But this injury was not just one surgery. Miller has gone through several surgeries and it is still very uncertain if Miller will put on a helmet again.
Miller’s career in Chicago has been up and down to say the least. There were highs, game wining touchdown in San Diego in 2015, a two-touchdown performance to go along with 107 yards the following week in St. Louis, but the lows were the overall inconsistency. Miller was a solid blocker and a well-respected player in the locker room and a leader.
Now, his future is uncertain, and the Bears have Adam Shaheen, Dion Sims, and Daniel Brown.
Would I re-sign Zach Miller: No
The Bears acquired Dontrelle Inman mid-season to give the wide receiver group another face and a possible play maker for Mitchell Trubisky. Inman had a solid 2016 with the Chargers, totaling 810 yards receiving and averaging 14.0 yards per catch. A young, quick, and decent route runner that could give Trubisky a deep ball weapon.
Did it work out? Somewhat. Inman caught six passes for 88 yards in his Bears debut in Green Bay in Week 10. After that, he did not really impress. Inman caught a touchdown vs. SF, but failed to be targeted vs. Cincinati and caught three passes total between the Lions and Brows games.
The Bears were able to retain their seventh round pick for Inman because he did not reach 25 receptions (had 23) for the Charges to keep the pick. Now, the Bears have seven picks in the 2018 draft ( 1,2, two in R 3,5,6,7.)
Inman showed some ability in his first few games but slowly faded away. Were his efforts in the season finale enough for the Bears to bring him back?
Would I re-sign Dontrelle Inman: No
Cameron Meredith (25)
After an solid 2017 campaign, Cameron Meredith looked like he could be a building block at wide receiver. Then, injury stuck the former Illinois State wide receiver, sidelined with an ACL tear for the entire 2018 season.
The Bears are going to bring him back and all signs pointing to Meredith wanting to come back. In fact, he said on Monday that he plans to workout with Trubisky during the offseason.
Would I re-sign Cameron Meredith: Yes
John Timu (25)
John Timu has been with the Bears since 2014, either on the practice squad or the active roster.
When he gets a chance to see the field, he always seems to make an impact. He has great instincts and flies around on the grass.
I would not be shocked if the Bears bring him back given his consistency over the years.
Would I re-sign John Timu: Yes
Patrick Scales (29)
Patrick Scales has been on the team since 2015, yet he suffered a knee injury in the preseason placing him on injured reserve.
Do the Bears like DePaola over Scales. That will be the ultimate question come the free agency period of the league year.
Would I re-sign Patrick Scales: No
Kyle Fuller ( 25)
Kyle Fuller had a remarkable bounce back season. The fourth-year player from Virginia Tech finished with 22 passes defended and 69 tackles, good for fifth on the team.
Fuller was not in the Bears plans for the 2017 season. Amukamara and Cooper were signed to start. Though because of injury and poor play from Cooper, Fuller won back the starting job and put up some of the best numbers in the NFL.
The Bears did not pick up his fifth-year option but that only seemed to motivate Fuller. He played like a first-round pick again and whether it’s the Bears or somewhere else, he is going to get a nice paycheck.
Re-signing Fuller must be atop of Ryan Pace’s list. He has done well, outside of bringing back Alshon Jeffery, in keeping talent in the building. Fuller is 25 and will be entering the best years of his career. And while he missed all of 2016, Fuller played in all 16 games in 2017. Accountability is a big factor is handing out big pay days.
The Bears could place the franchise tag on Fuller if it got that far. Pace must make this a priority. The Bears must keep draft picks in Halas Hall.
Would I re-sign Kyle Fuller: Absolutely
Mark Sanchez ( 31)
Mark Sanchez got a base salary of $2M to essentially be a coach and play catch at practice. Pretty nice.
Sanchez, a now journeyman quarterback, was inactive all 16 games this season. Though his talents on the field are not intriguing, his knowledge in the QB room is what the Bears were going for. After hearing Sanchez’s influence on Cowboys rookie Dak Presoctt last season, Pace wanted that for Trubisky.
It is very important for rookie quarterbacks to have veterans in their ear at practice and with them when it’s time to watch tape in the film room. But could the Bears find someone for cheaper next season? Probably.
Trubisky have not touched on Mike Glennon’s and Sanchez’s impact too much but I’m sure they are doing the best they can.
Would I re-sign Mark Sanchez: No
Kendall Wright (28)
In the Bears attempt to replace Alshon Jeffery, the Bears signed two veterans, one being Kendall Wright. The thought was that Dowell Loggains could get Wright back to the production when he was the offensive coordinator in Tennessee. Overall, it did not work out.
Wright finished the season with 59 receptions for 614 yards and one touchdown. His production ramped up toward the end of the season when he and Trubisky gained more chemistry.
Wright is still just 28 but may not want another one year deal. Players want stability and guaranteed money. The Bears have to get younger at wide receiver but bringing back Wright would not be the worst move.
Would I re-sign Kendall Wright: Yes
Tom Compton (28)
Tom Compton appeared in eleven games for the Bears in 2017, five of which he started. The luxury the Bears had was he is a swing tackle, meaning he could play both right and left tackle.
The Bears drafted Jordan Morgan from Kutztown and have Charles Leno Jr locked up. Time and time again teams face injuries at the offensive line, especially the Bears with Kyle Long and Josh Sitton. Compton earned $1.85 in base salary and could be brought back close to the same paycheck.
Would I re-sign Tom Compton: Yes
Christian Jones (26)
With Jerell Freeman going on injured reserve after Week one’s loss to the Falcons, Christian Jones was going to see the field a lot more. And the best part, he took advantage of it.
Jones finished the season with a team high 90 tackles and played in all 16 games. With Freeman’s future with the Bears uncertain given he has been suspended twice for PED violations, the likely hood of Jones sticking around became a lot more probable.
The former 4th round pick in 2014 has missed just one game in his short NFL career. With rebuilding comes signing young and proven players. The Bears need depth and Jones could rush off the edge as well.
Would I re-sign Christian Jones: Yes
Sherrick McManis (30).
Sherrick McManis has been on the Bears since 2012. A special teams captain this season, the former Northwestern Wildcat has stayed in the league by covering punts and kickoffs.
It’s a tough league and McManis has survived through special teams. A big credit to him. He was a leader of the unit and made some great plays this season. When he was out with a hamstring, it is hard to replace his presence.
The Bears need guys like him on this team. Not only his play on the field but his leadership and character he brings to the locker room.
Would I re-sign Sherrick McManis: Yes
Mitch Unrien (30).
There were a lot of people writing off Mitch Unrein off in training camp and did not want/expect him to be on the team come final cuts. I was one of those people but we would find out our thinking was wrong.
Unrien played fairly well this season. His numbers do not show it but he held his own on the line of scrimmage.
The Bears have high hopes for Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris. While Unrein set to turn 31 in March, the Bears may hesitate to bring back an older player.
Would I re-sign Mitch Unrien: No
Mike Nugent (35).
Mike Nugent was the Bears third kicker this season. He made all four field goal attempts, including a 55 yard kick in the Bears season finale.
The Bears picked up Cario Santos after waiving Connor Barth due to inconsistency. Santos was recovering from a groin injury and re activated it while with the Bears forcing him to go in injured reserve. Santos is 26 and made over 80% of his kicks in all three years with with the Chiefs.
I expect the Bears to stick with Santos because of age and his track record.
Would I re-sign Mike Nugent: No.
Cario Santos (26)
Like it says above, the Bears will probably invest in Cario Santos. He is still young and if recovery goes well, he can be a very solid kicker for the Bears.
Santos is 7-13 from 50+ yards in his career and is near perfect from inside the 30. The Bears have yet to solve the kicker issue after releasing Robbie Gould last season.
Would I re-sign Cario Santos: Yes
Pat O’Donnell (26)
The Bears drafted Pat O’Donnell out of Miami in the 6th round of the 2014 draft. O’Donnell finished 9th in the NFL this past season in average yards per punt and believe it or not, had a touchdown pass to Benny Cunningham.
In my opinion, punters are a dime a dozen. It would not be the end of the world if the Bears do not bring back O’Donnell. But who knows, maybe the Bears new special teams coach likes him. He is not a bad punter comparative to the rest of the league but you would like to see more punts inside the 20.
Would I re-sign Pat O’Donnell: Yes
Andrew DePaola (30).
The only long snapper I could name off the top of my head is Patrick Mannelly. With that being said, I did not focus on the Bears long snapping this season.
If Ryan Pace thinks he did his job well this season, then he will be back next season.
Would I re-sign Andrew DePaola: No clue
Lamarr Houston (30)
The Bears moved on from Lamarr Houston before the start of the season, and for good reason. He was coming off of another ACL tear and the Bears wanted to get younger at the position.
The only reason Houston came back was he fell into their arms when they needed help. With Floyd’s injury, McPhee lacking in production, and Isiah Irving going down with injury, the Bears need some depth and Houston was probably the best option on the waiver wire.
Outside linebacker is one of the Bears biggest needs heading into the offseason, but they need to go young and build that group around Leonard Floyd.
Would I re-sign Lamarr Houston: No
Sam Acho (29)
Sam Acho is another example of a guy who sticks out on special teams. The Bears brought him back to strengthen their special team unit and rush the quarterback if necessary.
Could the Bears bring him back again? They can get him at a really good price hopefully see the same production.
Would I re-sign Sam Acho: Yes
Benny Cunningham (27)
The Bears brought in Benny Cunningham knowing he can give them looks on offense and in the return game. He also played a role on special teams and caught a touchdown pass in the making.
Cunningham is also known for his pass blocking and was the Bears primary back in passing situations. Wonder why Howard or Cohen did not see much of the 2 min drill action? That is a strength to Cunningham’s game and did pretty well in his role.
There are plenty of running backs on the market and I am not freaking out that Cunningham did not sign longer than a one year deal.
Would I re-sign Benny Cunningham: No
Bryce Callahan (26)
One of the main storylines of Bryce Callahan’s young career is his inability to stay healthy. But when he is, the undrafted cornerback from Rice can be a pretty good player.
The Bears signed him to a one year deal last season and is now a restricted free agent in 2018. Pace has the first crack on whether he wants to bring Callahan back. Cre’Von LeBlanc played pretty well in Callahan’s absence this season and has a big impact on special teams.
Would I re-sign Bryce Callahan: No
John Jenkins (28)
When the Bears signed John Jenkins last August, I went to the film and I liked what I saw. Apparently he did not show the coaching staff enough to see a big role with the defense.
Jenkins appeared in eight games this season and saw the bulk of his play time in the Bears goal line package. His lack of production when given a chance sticks out and does not suit well for him when other teams look at the tape.
Would I re-sign John Jenkins: No
Josh Bellamy (28)
Josh Bellamy is another guy who made the roster because of his special teams impact. He is also a wide receiver, but is known far too well for his drops.
He is affordable but do the Bears want to take up a wide receiver spot for him again. The Bears need all the help they can get at WR and all have to be able to make an impact on the field.
Would I re-sign Josh Bellamy: No
Bradley Sowell (28).
Bradley Sowell started two games for the Bears and played in all 16.
Who knows how much he would have seen the field if Eric Kush did not tear his hamstring. Kush is signed for another season and the Bears still have Kyle Long and a team option on Josh Sitton. Also, the Bears signed two offensive lineman to futures contracts. Sowell looks to be the odd-man out.
Would I re-sign Bradley Sowell: No
So there you have it. Every Bears unrestricted and restricted free agent in 2018. It is going to be a very busy offseason.