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 fourth scenario, we look at five players the Bears could sign to upgrade the roster and still stay under the salary cap.
THE BIG CATCH
CB Brent Grimes
Kirby Lee/US Presswire
CB Brent Grimes, 27 (5-10, 181)
Grimes was an undrafted free agent coming out of Shippensburg University in 2006. In just four NFL seasons, he's developed into one of the top corners in the league. He earned his first Pro Bowl appearance last season, with many more sure to come.
He's not a huge cornerback, and isn't outstanding in run support, but he makes up for that with his big-play ability. Grimes was phenomenal in coverage last season. He finished the year with 81 tackles, 5 interceptions and 23 passes defended – the most in the NFL. In man-to-man coverage, he has the speed and fluid hips to run with any receiver. He's more than comfortable being left on an island. He's a ball hawk who is good at seeing both the quarterback and the wideout. When the ball is in the air, he goes after it with reckless abandon. His athleticism is off the charts.
Grimes is considered one of the top free agent corners, and as such, won't come cheap. Yet the Bears need to start thinking long-term with the position. Charles Tillman is getting up in years and no other corner on the roster has established himself as a legitimate starter. Grimes would immediately be the best cover corner on the team and would give the pass defense a big boost.
G/T Marshal Yanda, 26 (6-3, 315)
Yanda has flown under the radar, but as far as versatility and experience, not many other free-agent offensive linemen can match up with him. He played tackle for Baltimore last season due to injury, but he's a natural guard. Yet, even playing out of position in 2010, Pro Football Focus ranked his performance fourth best of all right tackles. He's fundamentally sound and extremely aggressive. He could play left tackle, right tackle, right guard or left guard, which is why the Bears would be wise to outbid the Ravens for his services.
LB Stewart Bradley, 27 (6-4, 258)
Bradley played middle linebacker in Philadelphia, yet most scouts believe, because of his size, he is best suited to play the strong side – just the position Chicago is looking to fill. He has good range, is solid at the point of attack, and plays with good vision and instincts. He's had some injury issues the last two seasons, so the Bears could be able to get him fairly cheap. If the Bears are unable to re-sign Roach and/or Tinoisamoa, Bradley could come in and be the SAM starter from Day 1.
C/G Nick Cole, 26 (6-3, 339)
Adding Cole only makes sense if the Bears are unable to re-sign Kreutz. Cole is not a top-flight offensive lineman, and may never be, but he's young enough and has the size to be serviceable for many years. His value is buoyed by the fact he can play either center or guard. The Bears don't seem too enamored with either Edwin Williams or Lance Louis, so they could bring in Cole as a backup who can play any of the three interior-line positions. This would not be a groundbreaking acquisition but Cole would be a cheap way to add depth and flexibility up front.
WR Lance Moore, 27 (5-9, 190)
Moore has been a dependable slot receiver in New Orleans for years now and could do the same in Chicago's offense. He has outstanding hands and runs very tight routes. The Bears would like to limit Devin Hester's reps on offense to save him for the return game; Moore would be the ideal player to take those reps. He'll come fairly cheap. When you consider his potential in Mike Martz's offense, he could be a free-agent steal.
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