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 reserve/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 third scenario, we look at five players the Bears could sign to upgrade the roster and still stay under the salary cap.
THE BIG CATCH
G Harvey Dahl
Kyle Terada/US Presswire
G Harvey Dahl, 30 (6-5, 305)
The Falcons would like to re-sign Dahl, but they have another, younger guard in Justin Blalock that is also a free agent. Odds are, they'll only be able to sign one. If Dahl walks, the Bears' front office would be wise to contact his agent. He is a savvy veteran who has started the last 27 games he's played in. He's a solid blocker with excellent size, agility and body control.
Pro Football Focus ranked Dahl's 2010 pass-protection performance the ninth best in the league amongst guards. He could come in and immediately start on either the right or left side and would provide an instant upgrade. Jay Cutler would face far fewer sacks and pressures with the former-Nevada product blocking in the middle.
He won't cost as much as some of the other top-tier free agent guards, which could be just the thing that earns him Jerry Angelo's attention. The addition of Dahl would provide experience and stability to a line in desperate need of both.
DT Brandon Mebane, 26 (6-1, 311)
Mebane's best asset is his quickness. He's not overly powerful, although he's very good at holding his ground in the run game. He makes up for it with his feet and his ability to read blocking schemes. He has great initial quickness and a good first step. He would fit in perfectly with the Bears' 4-3. Of all the defensive tackles available, he's the player Chicago should pursue. He won't come cheap, but if the under tackle is as important as Marinelli says it is, then it would be money well spent.
WR James Jones, 27 (6-1, 208)
Jones has all the talent in the world but just can't hang on to the ball. It has been said it's a concentration issue, not due to bad hands. If he can get that resolved, he could turn into something special. He's shown good play making ability, has decent size and won't cost too much.
LB D'Qwell Jackson, 27 (6-0, 240)
Jackson led the NFL in tackles (154) in 2008 but only played six games the past two seasons due to two pectoral injuries. He is a very good player though: fluid, smart, instinctive, excellent range, and good against the run and pass. He's a little undersized to play the strong side but his athleticism would more than make up for it. He'll come cheap and should definitely be on the Bears' radar.
RB Kevin Faulk, 35 (5-8, 202)
The Patriots drafted two running backs, so it's safe to say Faulk, who just turned 35, isn't in their future plans. The Bears could sign him to a one-year deal and use his abilities as a pass catcher on third down. If Chester Taylor continues his decline in production, Faulk could provide a cheap alternative. As a long-tenured veteran, his presence in the locker room would be well received and he could facilitate Matt Forte's all-around development.
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