While the Bears haven’t done what the Philadelphia Eagles have done in signing many of the top free agents on the market, I would say they pulled off some surprises.
They struck immediately and landed Roy Williams, who was maligned in Dallas but an All-Pro in Detroit. Williams gives the Bears a proven dimension they have been lacking in their receiver corps. Signing former Cowboy running back Marion Barber was equally surprising to me, mainly because I thought it was a GREAT move. The Bears were pretty miserable scoring and converting from close-in during the 2010 season, and the bruising, proven Barber is just the ticket. Imagine if we had Barber last year when we faced third-and-three with the game on the line in the NFC Championship?
They then made two swift pickups of failed top-10 draft choices in Vernon Gholston and Amobi Okoye, both defensive linemen. These players could flame out with the Bears as they did with their previous teams, but it’s not going to cost the Bears much to give them a try under a fantastic defensive coach.
I question what is next, however, because to me there are still three key glaring question marks on the team. What about cornerback? Charles Tillman is appreciated around these parts, but he’s been battered over his career and is in his ninth season. Not to even mention the questionable #2 corner position opposite Tillman, with Zack Bowman and Tim Jennings battling it out. What if Tillman is lost for the season…then how bad could it get? I know corners don’t grow on trees, but I’d sure like to see Kelvin Hayden pursued.
The next area of concern is the offensive line, of course. For the second year in a row, the team seems to believe that their youngsters are going to step up in their level of play. I hope they do, but what did this philosophy get the Bears in 2010 other than 56 sacks? (Yes it also got them an NFC Championship appearance, but you know what I mean.) I was hoping to see a solid guard signed, but what if J’Marcus Webb doesn’t pan out? Again, left tackles don’t grow on trees, but one acquisition other than Chris Spencer would have made me feel better.
Finally, the safety position has been questionable for the Bears since Mike Brown was in his prime. A lot of faith is being put on Major Wright, who couldn’t stay healthy or put himself in the right position in 2010. If he’s injured again, I believe we’re down to Craig Steltz or rookie Chris Conte at free safety. If Wright doesn’t pan out or is hurt, we’re in for trouble.
It’s worth noting that the Bears have over $19 million in cap space available, 9th most in the league. They had better make sure these areas of need are addressed, and preferably not with former failed top 10 picks.