Though they rank in the top ten in salary cap the Chicago Bears aren't expected to go on a huge shopping spree. Instead they will try to hunt for bargains. Could they find a pair at needed areas with linebacker Brad Jones and tackle Will Beatty?
Jake Long saga could push Bears towards Beatty
NFL fans these days look forward to free agency almost as much as the draft. It's a time when anything and everything can happen. Teams go deep into the checkbooks to get the player they want while others carefully navigate the field like miners searching for a vein of gold. For Chicago, that search will begin with the offensive line. No spot from tackle to guard and center is safe with a new head coach in town. At the same time the Bears can't afford to risk everything on a single pricey lineman. That is why they probably won't jump in to the pool of teams interested in Dolphins left tackle Jake Long. Despite his injury problems his Pro Bowl history is enough to command top dollar from the right buyer. At the same time it's good news for Chicago. While the most desperate teams go after the big names like Long, Branden Albert, and Sebastian Vollmer, they could find a serious deal in Will Beatty. The fourth-year pro had his best season with the New York Giants in 2012 and has experience playing both left and right tackle. He ranks 6th among free agent tackles according to ESPN. That is ahead of Albert, Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod and Super Bowl champion Bryant McKinnie. If a team ever wanted an under-the-radar find, Beatty is it.
Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach issues make Jones a safe bet
The other area the Bears can't ignore anymore is linebacker. Lance Briggs is the only starter under contract for 2013. Teammates Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach are both free agents and have no guarantees about coming back. That means GM Phil Emery must gear his off-season plan around finding other options. Free agency lacks any big names that would fit the Bears scheme, but a few young surprises will sit out there. Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Philip Wheeler may not return to the Silver and Black while veteran Daryl Smith would fit right in were he to leave Jacksonville. One name brought up by experts is Brad Jones. The seventh round pick for the Green Bay Packers played inside linebacker last season, and played it fairly well considering his inexperience. Analysts believe he has the athletic talent to play outside linebacker in the Chicago defense and could even replace Urlacher in the middle down the road.
It doesn't take a roster full of household names to win championships. The Chicago Bears must understand that if they want to fulfill that dream. Will Beatty and Brad Jones won't win popularity contests, but their talent and skill are things that can push the team in the right direction.
Photo Credit: Gridiron Fans