Bears re-sign key special teamer CB Sherrick McManis

Posted by Matt Clapp | 4/01/2015 04:57:00 PM |

The Bears signed their tenth player over the last two weeks on Wednesday, when they reached a one-year deal with cornerback Sherrick McManis.

The 27-year-old McManis isn't a big name on the surface and is a reserve cornerback, but Bears fans are well aware of the value he brings on special teams.

Over the last three years, McManis leads the Bears with 38 special teams tackles and has been the most consistent performer on the unit. Really, the only consistent performer on the unit in that time.

The term "special teams ace" is thrown around loosely but McManis seems about as well deserving of that moniker as anybody.

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The Chicago Bears are making sure they have no shortage of outside linebackers competing for spots in the team's new 3-4 base defense when they head to training camp this summer.

Already having Pernell McPhee, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, and Jared Allen in the mix, the Bears added to that competition with the signing of linebacker Sam Acho on Wednesday.

Acho that spent the last four seasons with the Cardinals after being drafted by Arizona in the fourth round in 2011. The 26-year-old really opened eyes as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in his rookie season, collecting seven sacks, but only had six sacks over the last three seasons.

Now, the 6'3, 257-pounder is more known for his run-stopping ability, and was given a positive grade in that department from Pro Football Focus for his efforts in the 2014 season. He was also credited with 31 tackles, one sack, one interception, and three pass deflections in 2014.

Even with this outside linebacker depth, it's still possible the Bears grab an edge rusher with the No. 7 pick, as there are a few tremendous prospects at the position that figure to warrant a top-10 selection. Youth is still needed and it would be nice to find a long-term stud to terrorize quarterbacks off the edge.

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On Tuesday, the Bears made a surprise move by signing veteran running back Jacquizz Rodgers to a one-year contract.

Rodgers, who just turned 25 in Febraury, spent the first four seasons of his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons, after they selected him in the fifth-round of the 2011 draft.

Despite being only 5'6", Rodgers has shown to be an effective pass blocker and receiver out of the backfield in the NFL. Rodgers had 105 receptions over 2012 and 2013, catching three of those passes for touchdowns. He offers nice traits in what you're looking for out of a third-down back.

However, Rodgers' career average of 3.7 yards per carry (over 305 carries) leaves much to be desired. He is most certainly a backup running back and will in no way be challenging Matt Forte for a starting job.

But, Rodgers may very well give Ka'Deem Carey some serious competition for the No. 2 running back job.

Carey of course was drafted by the Bears in fourth round last year, after putting up incredible numbers in college for the Arizona Wildcats. But, he hardly impressed at the Combine with very average to below average numbers, and he didn't show too much in the preseason or regular season for the Bears. He also struggled in pass protection, something Rodgers has shown to be good at.

Additionally, keep in mind that general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox weren't with the Bears when Carey was drafted, so perhaps they aren't as high on him as the previous regime was.

So, you'd have to think that Rodgers has a decent shot at topping Carey in playing time for the Bears in 2015, especially in passing situations. It's also worth noting that Fox has a history of using several running backs so perhaps Rodgers and Carey will both be a key part of the rotation.

If nothing else, Rodgers adds nice camp competition for Carey, and gives the Bears solid depth at the position.

As for the draft, this year's class is absolutely loaded with talented running backs and I doubt the Bears' current running back depth would cause them to pass on a player that they love in rounds 3+. Remember, Matt Forte will be a 30-year-old free-agent at season's end, so it's very possible (and perhaps likely) that the team's 2016 starting running back isn't even on the roster right now.

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Bears stay busy with signing of LB Mason Foster

Posted by Matt Clapp | 3/24/2015 06:33:00 PM | ,

In what was their third free-agent signing on Tuesday, the Chicago Bears agreed to terms with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Mason Foster on a one-year deal. Foster's agent, Steve Carric, confirmed the deal. And so did Foster basically on Twitter, before the report was even out there:
That was Foster tweeting in response to defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, whom the Bears signed earlier in the day (read more about that here).

This Foster move has been rumored since the initial days of free-agency as the Bears look for veteran depth and starting competition at inside linebacker in their new 3-4 scheme. The 26-year-old has been a starter in Tampa Bay since entering the league as a third-round pick by the Bucs in 2011.

Listed at 6'1", 241 pounds, Foster will likely be a two-down linebacker for the Bears as he struggles in pass coverage. Even with his limitations in pass coverage, Foster still managed to intercept three passes in 2013, and returned two of them for touchdowns. He also recorded two sacks in all of his first three seasons in Tampa Bay.

In the 3-4 scheme, you're in need of two starting linebackers on the inside, and the team is of course letting long-time linebacker Lance Briggs walk. The other inside linebacker options on the roster are Jon Bostic, Christian Jones, Khaseem Greene, and DeDe Lattimore. That's a lot of youth and uncertainty at the position. So, expect Foster to usually be at one of the two inside linebacker spots on first and second down, at least.

This appears to be another very cheap deal, and in that case, a very nice one given the Bears' need at inside linebacker:

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Bears finally land a 3-4 DE in Jarvis Jenkins

Posted by Matt Clapp | 3/24/2015 02:56:00 PM | ,

During the introductory press conference for recently signed outside linebacker Pernell McPhee at Halas Hall, Chicago Bears head coach John Fox was asked what players on the roster appear to be fits at defensive end for the team's new 3-4 scheme:
Pretty much. While Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, and Willie Young were 4-3 defensive ends, they appear better slated to officially be outside linebackers in a 3-4 scheme, and it appears the Bears will use them that way.

On Tuesday, the Bears finally addressed the position by signing veteran defensive end Jarvis Jenkins on a one-year contract.
Jenkins, who turns 27 in April, spent the last three seasons with the Washington Redskins after they selected him in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Here's how Rotoworld (Evan Silva, I assume) summarized the signing:

It's not a surprise Jenkins didn't draw much interest in free agency. A 26-year-old who offers nothing as a pass rusher, Jenkins finished 45th out of 47 qualified 3-4 defensive ends in Pro Football Focus' 2014 rankings. He's serviceable against the run, but still received a negative grade in that area over 552 snaps last season. Chicago's cellar-dwelling defense didn't improve with this minimum-salary signing. 

The 6'4, 315-pound Jenkins was a starter for the Redskins over that time, but clearly not a great one. He only has two career sacks, but also keep in mind that pass-rush productivity from defensive end in the 3-4 scheme isn't nearly as crucial as it is in the 4-3; the primary pass-rushing usually comes from your 3-4 outside linebackers. In the 3-4, you're looking for a bigger-bodied defensive end whose skills are somewhere between a traditional defensive end and defensive tackle. Still, you'd like to see more than two sacks over 33 career starts.

But, again, the Bears desperately needed 3-4 defensive ends and Jenkins is a capable option there, with veteran experience.

The draft is also lacking in quality 3-4 defensive end options at the No. 7 pick (most of the DE/LB prospects seem best-suited as 3-4 OLB for the Bears), so it was wise for the Bears to add veteran options instead of relying on mid-round draft picks, for example.

And according to Brad Biggs, the deal is a very cheap one as well:

The one-year contract is for the minimum salary benefit, according to a source, and contains a partial guarantee.
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