For those of you not thinking about football yet – you should be! With the 2014 NFL Free Agency window officially kicking off last Tuesday, sovaldi the Bears wasted no time and have been busy recruiting, scouting, scouring and unloading players in order to compile the best roster possible (and save a little cash) for the upcoming season.
For those of you that may be slightly confused by NFL Free Agency, join the club. The whole process is a bit confusing, with unrestricted free agents (UFAs) and free agents (FAs) as well as franchise players and transition players all playing different roles in the negotiating process. For a very detailed explanation of Free Agency and how it works, check out The Phinsider’s Free Agency 101.
Essentially a “free agent” is a player not locked into a contractual agreement with any team, therefore he can be scouted and offered to play for a different team. Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that, but for water cooler convos and status points with your non-NFL addicted friends, that should do.
Seeing as the (8-8) Bears had a weak defense in 2013, it was apparent that GM Phil Emery was going to aggressively hunt down some stronger defensive players in the free agency period this spring.
Below, I’ve broken down the biggest trades and signings the Bears have made in the last week, and why. Keep in mind that Free Agency doesn’t end until July 22, so expect the Bears to make additional moves in the next few months before Training Camp begins, but the biggest splash/moves are usually done in the first week, hence, my recap below. Here goes:
New Bears picked up in Free Agency:
Willie Young – Defensive End from Detroit
Lamarr Houston – Defensive End from Oakland
MD Jennings – Safety from Green Bay
Ryan Mundy – Safety from NY Giants
Jordan Senn – Linebacker from Carolina
Domenik Hixon – Receiver from Carolina
*Last season, safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte allowed 986 passing yards and nine TD which were league highs. New safety pick-ups during free agency (Jennings and Mundy) put Major Wright and Chris Conte in major jeopardy. Wright will probably leave Chicago and Conte has one final chance to prove he belongs with the Bears.
*The first day of free agency, the Bears announced they had picked up Lamarr Houston, a DE from Oakland. This was HUGE news as it was the first pick-up by the Bears and immediately buzz began circulating that Julius Peppers would soon be gone. Houston is a Colorado native who played college football at Texas, he was a 2nd round draft pick for Oakland in 2010. Last season Houston recorded 56 tackles, six sacks, and two forced fumbles. Sure enough, it was announced over the weekend that Julius Peppers has now moved to the dark side (also known as Green Bay) but after a lackluster performances in 2012 and 2013, I don’t think Chicago will miss him much.
Bye-Bye Bears: Former Players Released During Free Agency
Julius Peppers – Defensive End to Green Bay
Josh McCown – Quarterback to Tampa Bay
Michael Bush – Running Back to ?
*As mentioned, Julius Peppers had a less than impressive 2012 performance so letting him go freed up major cap space for Chicago.
*As 2013 was a strong year for Matt Forte, it was not for Michael Bush. Chicago relied heavily on Forte (and for very good reason), Bush had considerably less time on field and inevitably, less to show for it.
*Josh McCown was in talks with Chicago but it was very obvious that the team (with cap space) could not hold on to the back-up QB who put up impressive and consistent numbers for Chicago when Jay was out. McCown is taking his talents south – and will be working with former Bears head coach, Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay.
Charles Tillman – Cornerback
DJ Williams – Linebacker
Jordan Palmer – Quarterback
Nate Collins – Defensive Tackle
*The name that was most important to me during free agency has been Charles “Peanut” Tillman. The 2 time Pro-Bowler was born in Chicago, has spent his entire career with the Bears (2003-present), and received the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2014, so needless to say, his ties with the community run very deep. Unfortunately in the 2013 season he was injured week 10 (torn triceps) and remained out while the Bears struggled defensively. With his injuries and age, many wondered if he would be back but I’m sure glad he is.
*DJ Williams was also resigned for a 1 year deal with Chicago. He originally came to Chicago in 2013’s free agency period under a one year contract and then suffered a season ending chest injury in week 6. He’s a 11th year NFL veteran who will more than likely start again (potentially over last year’s rookie Jon Bostic).