The end is just around the corner.
After more than four months of inactivity, it appears the NFL and NFLPA should have a new collective bargaining agreement ratified within the next few days. It will be a welcome event to many that will signal the beginning of the most chaotic free-agency period in league history. All 32 NFL teams will be looking to fill out their rosters in a span of only a couple of weeks. Typically, teams have five months to sign free agents. The action should be fast, furious and exciting.
Insider reports indicate it's likely teams will be given a few days before the start of free agency to re-sign their own players. The Bears have 16 such free agents. Bear Report has covered in detail the big names Chicago will be attempting to re-sign. In this final installment, we'll discuss the fate of the handful of backups that may or may not be in the navy and blue in 2011.
QB Caleb Hanie (restricted free agent)
Everyone remembers Hanie's performance in last year's NFC Championship, where he almost led the Bears to a win in the game's second half after Jay Cutler was lost to injury. Everyone, that is, except for coordinator Mike Martz, who lobbied for the team to select Nathan Enderle in the fifth round of this year's draft. While he's shown signs of potential, it's apparent Martz – who chose the inept Todd Collins last year as the primary backup over Hanie – doesn't have much confidence in the former undrafted free agent. The team did place a low-level tender on him at $1.2 million. As such, if any other team saw enough out of Hanie to believe he can be a primary backup, or potential starter, that club will not have to compensate the Bears with any draft picks. Chicago's front office is committed to him for now, but it doesn't look they'll put up much of a fight if another team is truly interested.
WR Devin Aromashodu (restricted)
The Bears did not offer Aromashodu a restricted tender before the lockout, so it doesn't look like he's part of the team's future plans. After coming into the season last year as the starter opposite Johnny Knox, Aromashodu quick fell out of favor with the coaching staff. He caught just five total passes after Week 1. Even though he has the size (6-2, 201) the team is looking for in a wideout, his pass catching, route running and general attitude just aren't up to snuff. Don't expect him to be part of the receiving corps in 2011.
RB Garrett Wolfe
RB Garrett Wolfe (unrestricted)
Wolfe was chosen by the Bears in the third round of the 2007 draft due to his dominance as a runner at Northern Illinois – he led the nation in rushing his senior year. Yet he never panned out as a running back in Chicago. He instead earned his roster spot as a member of the coverage units. He was second on the team last year in special teams tackles. That is as far as his value goes though, which is why the team would be better off letting him walk and replacing him with a younger, cheaper player. His recent arrest outside a Florida nightclub also severely hurt his chances of being re-signed.
LB Rod Wilson (unrestricted)
Wilson has never been a consistent contributor at linebacker – his best season in the NFL came in 2006 when he had 18 tackles – yet he's been solid on special teams throughout his career. The top six tacklers for Dave Toub's unit are currently free agents, so it might make sense to bring back Wilson, along with Rashied Davis and Brian Iwuh. It won't hurt the team to sign him to the veteran minimum and thus solidify the core group of special teamers.
S Josh Bullocks (unrestricted)
Bullocks has spent that last two seasons with the Bears, starting just four games during that time. He deflected nary a pass and had zero interceptions. With the team selecting a safety in each of the past two drafts, it's safe to say Bullock's time in Chicago, and possibly the NFL, is over.
QB Todd Collins (unrestricted)
The 39-year-old played in three games for the Bears last season. He completed 10 of 31 passes for 68 yards, zero touchdowns and five interceptions. He's going to have plenty of time to work on his golf game this year.
TE Desmond Clark (unrestricted)
Clark was once a quality contributor to Chicago's offense but has been fazed out the past two seasons. Last year's offseason signing of Brandon Manumaleuna to backup starter Greg Olsen, along with the team drafting Kellen Davis, officially signaled the end of Clark's tenure in the Windy City. He's a high-character player who will be missed in the locker room.
RB Kahlil Bell (exclusive rights free agent)
The Bears tendered Bell before the lockout, so it looks like they'll be extending him an invitation to training camp. Chester Taylor could be on his way out, which could open up a competition between Bell and second-year runner Harvey Unga. Bell averaged 5.5 yards per carry on 40 attempts his rookie year in 2009, yet didn't earn a single carry last season. He'll need to be very impressive in training camp to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport com. To read him every day, visit BearReport com and become a Chicago Bears insider.