Posted by Matt Clapp | 3/08/2013 04:55:00 PM | Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Brandon Moore, Brian Urlacher, D.J. Moore, Devin Hester, Evan Rodriguez, Israel Idonije, Julius Peppers, Kelvin Hayden, Phil Emery
The 2013 NFL free agency period "officially" begins on Tuesday at 4 PM ET, but as Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio explains, free agency pretty much begins at midnight tonight (Friday night/Saturday morning):
But with the league opening a three-day tampering window as of Saturday at midnight, free agency begins soon.
We’re not quite sure what to expect, so we plan to stay up late and monitor the text messages and emails and tweets and other reports and information for evidence of teams talking to agents about players who will be free to sign elsewhere on Tuesday.
The challenge will be to separate fact from fiction. Some agents will be tempted to put out false (or at a minimum embellished) information about negotiations with a team in order to generate interest elsewhere. Some teams will be tempted to engage an agent for one player in negotiations publicly, in the hopes of concealing the talks with another.
Regardless, since the NFL is an industry where most of the participants work at full capacity because they assume everyone else is, we plan to be at full capacity tonight under the assumption that the news will be flowing.
So, we could learn a lot about signings, contract restructures and extensions, cuts, etc. from the Bears and the rest of the NFL in the coming days. Let's examine some links that relate some Bears topics as we hit the beginning of free agency...
Brian Urlacher gives Bears a proposal for new contract- Sean Jensen:
"Linebacker Brian Urlacher’s agents provided the Bears with contract parameters for a new deal Thursday morning, according to a league source"
The Urlacher situation is a very difficult one for Phil Emery to deal with. Urlacher was running at about 70% following his knee surgery, and admitted multiple times that the knee is never going to be the same again. Still, he's the captain/quarterback of the defense, and his instincts are as good as anybody to ever play middle linebacker. Even if he looks like he's jogging out there much of the time, he still has value. But how much? That's what Emery has to determine, and it would certainly help if Urlacher could give a "hometown discount" of sorts. It would be a shame to see Urlacher play anywhere but Chicago in the rest of his career, but the Bears can't afford to overpay No. 54 given their other huge needs and limited cap space (more on all that to come below).
If the Bears can't work out a deal with Urlacher, it makes signing Nick Roach even more important. Roach's primary position has been strong-side linebacker with the Bears, but he stepped up admirably at middle linebacker for Urlacher when Urlacher missed the end of the season with a hamstring injury. Roach could be a nice short-term fix at middle linebacker as the Bears look to find the long-term answer there (they could slowly develop a linebacker drafted in 2013, for example). Really, Roach has too much versatility and value to this Bears team to let get away given his price is unlikely to be too high. (Pro Football Talk)
Israel Idonije: "My priority is to stay here", "I think "Brian (Urlacher) is going to be back"- Israel Idonije spoke with Laurence Holmes on 670 The Score, and expressed his desire to remain a Bear:
"Even though ultimately I’ll be back in Chicago when I retire from the game — Chicago is going to be home — my priority is to stay here and enjoy these next few years in Chicago with my friends, my family and with my organization."
The 32-year-old also thinks that Brian Urlacher will re-sign with the Bears, and that Urlacher is too important to let get away:
“When you start talking about the offense getting better and maintaining defensive success, Brian Urlacher has to be a piece of that equation,” Idonije told Holmes. “You take him out of that situation and things change. I think Brian is going to be back.”
Like Urlacher, the Bears would like to have Idonije back (who, like Nick Roach offers the ability to play multiple positions), but at the right price. With Julius Peppers, Corey Wootton, and 2012 1st round pick Shea McClellin already at defensive end, and given how much the team is now paying Henry Melton, they can't devote too much money to the defensive line. (670 The Score)
Bears have interest in Jets guard Brandon Moore- After the Chicago Sun-Times' Sean Jensen wrote last night how free agent guard Brandon Moore would make plenty of sense for the Bears in free agency, ESPN Chicago's Michael C. Wright reports that the Bears indeed have interest in signing the 32-year-old offensive lineman:
"Past issues in protection indicate the Chicago Bears could be looking at offensive tackle in free agency or the draft, but the club has actually explored the possibility of bringing in an interior offensive lineman in New York Jets veteran guard Brandon Moore, according to an NFL source.
A pending free agent and 10-year veteran, Moore has started 142 of 144 games for the Jets, and has logged 137 consecutive starts for the team. While age (32), could be seen as a negative, Moore is considered one of the NFL’s top free agents at his position. "
As Jensen pointed out in his article last night, Moore is Pro Football Focus' top rated guard or center available in free agency, and the fourth-best guard overall in 2012. Jensen adds about Moore, "His pass-blocking is above-average, and his run-blocking is exceptional."
Right now, the Bears are operating with approximately $3.95 million in cap space after slapping the $8.45 million franchise tag on defensive tackle Henry Melton. Moore is expected to command $5-6 million per year, and the Bears also have other needs (offensive tackle, tight end, etc.) to potentially fill in free agency. And the Bears would surely like to try to work out deals with some of their own free agents, such as Brian Urlacher, Nick Roach, Israel Idonije, Lance Louis, Jonathan Scott, Jason Campbell (although I think he'll be too pricey), Kelvin Hayden, Zack Bowman, and Nate Collins.
So, there's no doubt the Bears need to find a way to free up quite a bit of cap space, which means some restructures (Julius Peppers potentially), 2013-cap-friendly extensions (Brandon Marshall, Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Robbie Gould potentially), and of course cuts (Devin Hester, Kellen Davis, Matt Spaeth, Matt Toeaina potentially, to name a few) are surely to come. Phil Emery and team lead contract negotiator Cliff Stein (the best in the business) are in for quite a challenging few months. (ESPN Chicago)
D.J. Moore won't return to Bears- Hardly a surprise. Moore was pretty awful in coverage at times, and ultimately replaced by Kelvin Hayden as the nickel back before midseason. He's also undersized and unable to play adequately on the outside. Also, I doubt the tight-lipped Phil Emery was a fan of how much D.J. Moore ran his mouth to the media about matters that should be kept in-house. (Chicago Tribune)
Evan Rodriguez training with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery- It was revealed months ago that Alshon Jeffery planned to train with Brandon Marshall this offseason, which was certainly great news to hear. Even better news to hear? Evan Rodriguez has joined them:
"Last year’s fourth-round pick, fullback/tight end Evan Rodriguez, arrived at Marshall’s brand-new Fit Speed Inc. training facility in Weston, Fla., in mid-February to participate in workouts with his Bears teammates and other NFL players recruited by Marshall, who is recovering from offseason hip surgery."
I was extremely disappointed by how little Mike Tice used Rodriguez in the passing game, and I expect Marc Trestman and his staff to make Rodriguez a weapon, rather than just a blocking fullback. I think we'll see E-Rod used in a variety of roles. (ESPN Chicago)
Should the Bears cut Julius Peppers?- On the surface it seems like a CRAZY question, but there are actually reasons to at least look into it given the Bears' needs and how much money Peppers is due.
Peppers is still a damn good player and it doesn't all show up in the box score with him; he's still the center of attention for opposing gameplans and draws double teams. He still makes everybody else on the defensive line better.
But, the Bears could likely get by okay still with a defensive end rotation that would still feature Corey Wootton, Shea McClellin, and likely Israel Idonije if Peppers were gone. If letting Peppers go could be what it takes to get you a premier left tackle and tight end in free agency, the Bears may be better off for it. Still, it's Julius freaking Peppers and there's no doubt the veterans in the locker room would be quite furious if he were cut.
Make sure to read the entire post from Windy City Gridiron's Lester A. Wilfong Jr. on the situation, but here's how he closes:
"With a restructure for Julius Peppers unlikely, and cap hits of $17 million due in 2014, and nearly $20 million due in 2015, it's safe to assume he'll be cut at some point. Which begs the question; Does it make sense for the Bears to do it now?"
If you ask me, I probably wouldn't do it, but I would at least spend some time looking into the possibilities on what you could potentially do with that money. (Windy City Gridiron)
Chicago Bears 2013 NFL Free Agency Preview- A very nice summary from Adam Oestmann of what looms for the Bears as we approach free agency. (Chicago Bears Huddle)
Devin Hester posts "I'm a Bear for 4 life" to Instagram account- We'll have to see if Phil Emery allows this to be technically correct, even though Hester's heart will surely always be in Chicago. (670 The Score)
Bears announce offseason schedule- The Bears announced their offseason schedule on Friday.
April 2: Open voluntary offseason workout program
April 16-18: Voluntary veteran minicamp
May 10-12: Rookie minicamp
May 13-June 6: 10 organized team activities (OTAs)
June 11-13: Mandatory full squad minicamp (ChicagoBears.Com)
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