Bears expected to franchise tag defensive tackle Henry Melton- Brad Biggs reports that the Bears are likely to slap the franchise tag on Henry Melton if a long-term deal isn't reached.

Melton, 26, is coming off a monster season and just getting better as a three-technique defensive tackle (he was even a running back at first in college at Texas and was drafted as a defensive end by the Bears, so he's really just learned the defensive tackle position in the last couple years).

So, the Bears would hate to lose him, but with obvious positional needs at offensive line, tight end, linebacker, wide receiver, etc., paying Melton the $8.3 million franchise tag number isn't something that everybody will be on board with. Restructuring Julius Peppers' contract (again, which may not go over well with him) or extending Charles Tillman's contract to lower the cap hit are options Phil Emery and cap extraordinaire Cliff Stein may look at to free up some cap space for the Bears if Melton is to be tagged. Because, again, there's some big needs, and remember the Bears are already lacking a third-round pick in the draft. (Brad Biggs on Twitter)

Bears interested in re-signing defensive end Israel Idonije- The Bears are interested in bringing back nine-year veteran Israel Idonije, who is set to be a free agent. Idonije has been solid and versatile for the Bears over the years, starting plenty of games at defensive end, moving into defensive tackle on some passing downs, and being a quality contributor on special teams. He's also been an A+ guy in the community and represents the organization tremendously.

Here's what Phil Emery told ESPN Chicago about the situation:

"He's done a number of good things and had a number of good games both outside and inside. He's a guy we will sit down with and talk to about coming back. He's got versatility and that's a positive thing for Izzy. He's done a good job for us."

It's unlikely the Bears will offer a high dollar amount to Idonije with Julius Peppers, Corey Wootton, and Shea McClellin already in the fold at defensive end, but it would be nice to get something worked out with the versatile defensive lineman, and perhaps he'll take a "hometown discount" to stay in Chicago.
(ESPN Chicago)

Video of Bears head coach Marc Trestman speaking at the NFL Combine- I'll share some notable quotes from the press conference...

On Brian Urlacher, who is of course a free agent:

"That's an ongoing process. We evaluated our entire football team as much as we can without seeing him work, without having some formal time with him on the field. As we move forward through the process, through the process and the Spring, things are going to be resolved. But right now between Phil (Emery), the personnel department and myself and the coaching department, we continue to talk about these things and process the information. But at this time we're not going to go any further than that in our discussions."

On Jay Cutler and his body language/demeanor (yes, he was seriously asked about this):

"Everybody has an opinion on that. I'm excited to coach Jay. I've had a couple of opportunities to talk with him on multiple levels and excited to work with him in all facets of his game. I really am. He's an extremely bright guy. He loves football. He's got a great skill set. So we've got to work hard to provide him the resources he can to maximize his ability and that goes into everything we're doing in all three phases with personnel department and with our coaching staff."

On defensive end Shea McClellin and if the Bears may use him at linebacker some:

"We've talked about that. He has flexibility. He's a tremendous athlete. As we put our football team together, Dan, we'll work on that. We've had discussions about Shea and all the strengths and his weaknesses. And he's got a lot of strengths and a lot of great things he can do. As Mel (Tucker) and the guys continue to put the defense together, we'll decide collectively what the best place for him to play is." (ChicagoBears.Com)

Video of Bears general manager Phil Emery speaking at the NFL Combine-

On possibly franchise tagging Henry Melton:

"Am I going to franchise tag Henry Melton? Way to go, Brad (Biggs, I assume). Way to lead. We'll work through that situation, obviously. We'll be talking to Henry and when we come to a conclusion everybody will know."

On the Brian Urlacher situation:

"We look at every player as a unique player. The qualities he brings probably you say when you fill the roster, how many linebackers we have has an impact. But right now, where we're at in the process, we're here to look at really good players and see if they fit. That is part of what we do. Yes, we're going to look at college players and see how they fit against what we have on our roster and what we could potentially add. and that's same thing that's true with UFAs."

Will Gabe Carimi play guard or a tackle?

"Coaches are going to work through that during OTAs, during the winter, get to know Gabe, get to see what his strengths and weaknesses are. Obviously, they've seen some things on tape. I think they see upside to him as a tackle or guard. So we'll find out through the process, and that'll take all the way through camp, to find his exact position."

"I do see that he has some flexibility. Gabe had some rough moments during the year. He had some good moments during the year. And he had some really good run-blocking moments. There are areas he needs to improve as a pass blocker. But he had good moments both at guard and at tackle."

On the Johnny Knox release and if the Bears now have a need (perhaps for speed) at wide receiver:

"Anytime you lose a player of that quality and that kind of speed, it does impact you. To say [not] would be silly. It does impact us. We'll look at all avenues in terms of finding someone who can add to that mix at receiver."

On Shea McClellin and Alshon Jeffery, the Bears' first two selections in the 2012 NFL Draft:

"I want them to get better as football players and be more productive. Grow in their knowledge of the game, and be better players overall. Very satisfied with where they were at as rookies. Obviously, they both had some dings. I want them to be healthier, but that's the nature of the game. I want them to be better and more productive so they can help us at a higher level and win football games."

On Shea McClellin and if the Bears may use him at linebacker some:

"Right now he's a d-end and he'll remain a d-end. If there's something in him that sparks us in terms of he's got versatility. Like he did last year, he stood up in certain situations. But we're not going to put an umbrella around him. We're going to use his talents, his athleticism, his speed, his savvy, to the best we can, and whatever our coaches can concoct as far as a plan for him, we'll use every ounce of it. He is a d-end. That's his position. We're excited about him as a pass rusher. We want to get him on the field more on regular down situations. And where his versatility is, that's a plus for him. So if he ends being a linebacker in some situations, then good."

On Bears right guard Lance Louis, a free agent that tore his ACL in the 2012 season:

"We're going to have to work through that. Lance has been very diligent in his rehab and we're pleased with his progress. So at some point, we'll sit down with his agents and work through that."

Best positions in this year's draft class?

"There are several. When I look at it, there are a number of corners in this draft class that can play and they can help teams as a 1, 2, or 3. I would say that's a strength. There's a strong safety class. In our minds, there are five or six starters in this class at safety and that's rare to me. There's a really good number - between tackles and end - of players that can help teams and can be potential starters. The offensive line class has strength in the front end, when you look at it from tackle, guard and center, and you look all the way through. There are a number of players who would be in the mix as starters."

On Joe DeCamillis interviewing for the Bears' head coaching job and accepting the special teams coordinator job instead:

"He was an excellent interview. For those who know Joe D in the coaching community, and throughout the league, he's a very detailed, well-prepared individual. We sat down and he had an iPad ready for me, and an iPad ready for himself and he said, ‘I'm ready to go.' I had to slow him down a little bit. I wanted to revisit with him. We had worked together, but I wanted him to take me back through his career then we moved forward. He had an excellent interview."

"I was extremely surprised and felt very good that we were able to get him on this staff. Obviously, we had lost Dave [Toub] - he had moved to the Chiefs - and we interviewed Joe D for the head coaching position so I felt very good about him as a coach and glad to have him." (ChicagoBears.Com)

Bears hire Mike Groh as wide receivers coach- The Bears' coaching staff is now complete, with the hiring of Mike Groh as wide receivers coach. The 41-year-old held the same position with the Alabama Crimson Tide, and actually served as their recruiting coordinator, so it's a big loss for the two-time defending champs in college football. He's a former quarterback at the University of Virginia, and is the son of long-time coach Al Groh. (CBS Chicago)

Bears could be in the market for a traditional fullback- Matt Eurich writes how the Bears could be looking for a more traditional fullback this offseason with the new coaching staff in place, and how it could allow Evan Rodriguez to play more tight end, which is certainly a huge position of need for the Bears and the position Rodriguez was drafted to play in 2012:

"Rodriguez performed well at times, especially for someone who had never played the position prior to the 2012 season, but given his skill set, his potential to be a downfield target in the passing game and the team's switch to a West Coast style of offense, he may be better suited moving back to tight end in 2013.

New offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer talked about his preference of having a traditional fullback to go along with his tight ends, telling the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs, 'If you have both then you really have what you are looking for; if you have a fullback and an F tight end that can move around and a fullback at times and be a tight end, not a point of attack tight end.'"

Make sure to give the whole article a read. (Chicago Bears Huddle)

Bears to meet with Manti Te'o on Friday- Even with the whole Te'o saga, he'd be a nice guy to replace Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker. But is he worth it at No. 20? That's what the Bears will try to find out. And man oh man do I wish I could listen in on the questions he's asked by the Bears and other teams at the Combine. (CBS Chicago)

Bears to meet with Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker on Friday- A very possible pick at No. 20 and potentially the Bears' starting left tackle in 2013. The Daily Herald's Bob LeGere said on Friday at the Combine, "Alabama OT D.J. Fuller, who could be #Bears pick at 20, definitely passes the eyeball test. At 339 pounds appears to have no excess weight." (CBS Chicago)

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Bears terminate the contract of WR Johnny Knox

Posted by Matt Clapp | 2/12/2013 06:34:00 PM | ,


The Bears announced on Tuesday that they have terminated the contract of veteran wide receiver Johnny Knox.

Knox, 26, missed all of the 2012 season after suffering an absolutely gruesome back injury vs. the Seahawks in 2011 that forced him to undergo spinal fusion surgery. He's been adamant in his confidence that he'll be able to fully recover and get back on the field again, but the Bears clearly feel that's not going to happen anytime soon. And it's very possible that will not happen again at all (but we certainly hope that's not the case).

Here's more from the Chicago Tribune's Vaughn McClure:

Multiple sources indicated the structural damage Knox suffered would make it difficult for him to return to football again. The initial outlook was four to six months of recovery just to perform normal activities, and even longer before Knox could return to football.

That optimism changed when the structural damage was discovered during surgery. Knox's back was unstable and there were more torn ligaments than anticipated. The nerve damage couldn't be assessed until after the surgery, and Knox had to wear a back brace for a while after the procedure.

And you may be thinking, "Wasn't Knox supposed to be a free agent anyway? Why did the Bears have to terminate his contract?"

McClure on that topic:
Knox collected his $1.26 million salary while sitting out this past season. His contract originally was supposed to expire after the ’12 campaign. But according to rules of the collective bargaining agreement, when a player in the last year of his contract is on the PUP list that entire season, his contract can be rolled over to the next season, at the team’s discretion.

Knox was as fifth round pick for the Bears in 2009 out of Abilene Christian, and immediately impressed that year in training camp with his blazing speed. He would go on to catch 45 passes in his rookie season for 527 yards and five touchdowns, and have 32 kick returns for 927 yards (29.0 average) and a touchdown. His kick returning efforts earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl. Quite remarkable rookie production out of a fifth round pick.

In 2010, Knox had 51 receptions (tied for team lead) for a team-leading 960 yards (18.8 average) and five touchdowns. He continued to be a big-play weapon for the Bears in 2011 before the injury, catching 37 passes for 727 yards (19.6 average) and two touchdowns in 14 games played. His 16.6 yards per reception over his three seasons ranked seventh in the NFL over that time.

The Bears sorely missed Knox in 2012, as they didn't have a big-play guy to stretch the field and take some defensive attention away from Brandon Marshall. And even if the Bears gave Knox a chance to make the 2013 roster, they certainly couldn't have counted on him for much production, so in my opinion they needed to find a vertical threat in free agency or the draft anyway. Now that need just becomes more evident.


UPDATE: Johnny Knox tells the Chicago Sun-Times that he is done playing football. We wish him all the best in his post-football career, and he'll certainly remain welcome around the Chicago Bears family for life.

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 The Bears have reportedly signed cornerback LeQuan Lewis to a contract:
As Biggs said, Lewis played with the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, appearing in eight total games between the two teams (five with the Bucs, three with the Cowboys). He had five total tackles, and intercepted a pass for the Bucs in a week 10 win against the Chargers. He also had five kickoff returns with the Bucs for 106 yards (21.2 average).

Lewis will turn 24 on February 17th, and is 5'11", 190 pounds. He was signed by the Titans as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona State in 2011, and then spent time with the Raiders and Jets in 2012, but didn't make a roster until doing so with the Bucs later in the year.

Lewis joins Tom Nelson (link to our write-up on him) as free agent defensive backs signed of late that could battle for Bears roster spots in training camp, and will likely have to show value on special teams to have a realistic chance to make the roster. The fact Lewis has recent NFL experience returning kicks could definitely help his chances, especially with Devin Hester's Bears future very much up in the air.

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