The Chicago Bears currently have just 54 contracted players on its roster. The team will bring 80 players to training camp, meaning the front office will be very busy once the free agency period begins.
Re-signing players like Olin Kreutz, Anthony Adams and Nick Roach will be a priority, along with wooing Danieal Manning back in the fold. The team must also lock down its five draft picks. Additionally, WR Andy Fantuz and P Richmond McGee need to sign their futures contracts.
Yet that still leaves roughly 10-15 open roster positions. Many of those slots will be filled by undrafted free agents, but a handful will surely come from the veteran free agent pool. In our second scenario, we look at five players the Bears could sign to upgrade the roster and still stay under the salary cap.
THE BIG CATCH
WR Sidney Rice
WR Sidney Rice, 25 (6-4, 202)
Rice has the size to be the starting flanker Chicago's offense has been missing. He's a good route runner and excels when going after the jump ball. He has the speed to stretch the field yet isn't afraid to go over the middle. With the Vikings, he demonstrated elite playmaking ability.
He missed most of last season due to a hip injury and wasn't outstanding when he returned. All indications are though that he's fully recovered and ready to return to his 2009 form, when he caught 82 passes for 1,312 yards and 8 TDs.
Jay Cutler's best statistical seasons were in Denver throwing to the big-bodied Brandon Marshall (6-4, 230). Cutler has a bad habit of throwing off his back foot, which often causes his passes to sail high. A player like Rice could be just what Cutler, Martz and the entire passing game needs to take the next step.
G Justin Blalock, 27 (6-4, 329)
Blalock has the perfect body for an NFL guard. He has a wide, thick base with above-average initial quickness and body control. He lacks good lateral movement but uses his hands well in close quarters. He has a ton of raw power and often engulfs opposing defenders with his size. At only 27 years old, he has plenty of good years in his future. He could come in and right away challenge for one of the two starting guard positions.
CB Ike Taylor, 31 (6-2, 195)
The Steelers will do everything in their power to keep Taylor, so he may not be available. If he does test the market, he'll find out just how coveted veteran cornerbacks with his skills are these days. He has the size and experience to be a perfect fit with the Bears. His leadership would create cohesiveness in the secondary and provide an extra level of nastiness.
LB Thomas Davis, 27, Panthers (6-0, 240)
Davis lost all of 2010 and 10 games in 2009 due to major knee injuries, so he'll come very cheap. He's a former safety with great sideline-to-sideline speed and outstanding coverage abilities. He's undersized and is better suited to play the weak side. Odds are, because of his injuries, Chicago wouldn't ask him to start right away. But he would make an outstanding fill in who, if he stays healthy, could regain his previous form and be a starter in the future.
DT Tony McDaniel, 26 (6-7, 310)
McDaniel's career has been marred by injury and ineffectiveness as a backup but he's still young and has all the right physical tools. He's similar in size to Israel Idonije, although he doesn't play with the same motor. He'll come extremely cheap and could turn into an effective penetrating tackle under the tutelage of Rod Marinelli.
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