To re-sign or not to re-sign?

The Bears have some tough decisions to make as to which current players the team should re-sign. We discuss the 14 free agents on the roster, and decipher who should stay and who should go.

**Note: All players below are unrestricted free agents unless noted otherwise**

RB Matt Forte
Forte's contract situation has been well documented throughout the season. Negotiating with former GM Jerry Angelo, the two sides could never come to an agreement on a contract extension. Forte wants $20 million guaranteed but the team reportedly offered him just $14 million. The team's new general manager will likely make it a priority to sign Forte for four or five more years. If a new contract can't be finalized, the team will place the franchise tag on him, which will net Forte somewhere in the $8 million range next season. One way or the other, he'll be on the roster in 2012, although tagging him could facilitate a holdout, something to which Forte has already alluded.

DE Israel Idonije
Idonije was third on the team in sacks this year with 5.0, giving him 13.0 the past two seasons combined. That's good but not great. With all of the attention given to Julius Peppers on the other side of the line, one would assume Idonije would have been able to pick up more sacks. Additionally, he did a poor job defending the run for most of the campaign. When you add the fact he's 31 years old, you get a player that has obviously reached his peak. Bears brass are happy with Idonije, which will likely earn him an extension, but for my money the team would be better off finding a younger alternative that can be a true force off the edge.


CB Tim Jennings
Jason O. Watson/US Presswire

CB Tim Jennings
Jennings fits the mold of a Cover 2 corner. He's physical, supports the run well and shows good awareness in zone coverage. Yet he can be a liability in man coverage. He does not have the speed to keep up with the burners he's forced to cover in the NFC North. As such, he was beaten on numerous occasions when the Bears used Cover 1. He was up and down this year and was benched in Week 15. Like Idonije, he's a decent player but far from outstanding. He made just $1.4 million last season, a relatively cheap sum. If Chicago can't find a better option, they could do worse than re-signing Jennings. But it would behoove the franchise to look long and hard at a player that can keep up with the like of Calvin Johnson and Greg Jennings, or at least Ben Obomanu.

S Craig Steltz
Steltz has a lot of value as a special teams player and supports the run as well as any safety on the team. He started five games this year, including the final four, in which he was arguably the best safety on the team. Steltz struggles in man coverage and was eaten alive by Packers TE Jermichael Finley in Week 3, allowing three touchdowns. He's a borderline starter who has grown into the strong safety position during his four years in the NFL. At the very least, he's an outstanding backup. He won't cost much to re-sign and provides solid depth at the position.

RB Kahlil Bell (restricted)
With injuries to Forte and Marion Barber, Bell was called upon to start the final two contests this season. He showed well in both games, picking up 121 yards on the ground against Green Bay in Week 15. He runs hard, has good hands and displayed solid awareness in pass protection. He's limited in the open field but showed a lot of potential this year. His major issue is with fumbling. In his two starts, Bell put the ball on the ground three times. As a restricted free agent, Chicago will likely bring him back to battle for the No. 2 spot. If he learns to hang onto the ball he could be a valuable backup going forward.

QB Caleb Hanie
Hanie started four games this year after Jay Cutler was lost with a thumb injury. He promptly threw nine interceptions, compared to just three touchdowns, and could not lead the team to a single victory over that stretch. He was finally replaced by journeyman Josh McCown for the final two contests, but by that point, the damage had been done. Hanie has almost no field vision and consistently locked on to his first target. And when the pressure came, he was downright awful. He had four games to prove he's an NFL quarterback and failed miserably. Don't expect him back next season.

TE Kellen Davis
Davis was targeted just 35 times last season. He caught 18 of those passes. Of those, 15 went for first downs and five went for touchdowns, the most on the team. Every tight end in the NFL would love to have that type of per-catch production. Yet in Mike Martz's scheme, he was asked to be a blocker the vast majority of the time. The problem with that is Davis stinks as a blocker. Repeatedly he was beat off the ball, trying to catch the defender instead of exploding off the line. He progressed some late in the season but it's doubtful he'll ever turn into an elite blocker. Yet considering his size and athleticism, the Bears should give him one more shot to show what he can do as a pass catcher. Given what he accomplished with just 35 targets, imagine what he could do with the 149 targets the Saints' Jimmy Graham received this year. Chicago should ink him for one more year and actually throw him the ball in 2012.

CB Corey Graham
Graham led the team in special teams tackles and is outstanding in the third phase. He started three games at nickelback for the injured D.J. Moore and racked up three picks, second most on the team. He has said on numerous occasions he wants an opportunity to play defense full time, something the Bears have been reluctant to give him. Graham will be a tough decision for the team. Do they take a risk and slot him in as a starter in 2012 or let walk the team's best special teams player? Because of his value on special teams, plenty of teams will be interested in his services, which could drive up his price tag. The Bears would probably be better served letting him play elsewhere.


QB Josh McCown
Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire

QB Josh McCown
McCown was coaching high school football through most of the 2011 season before the Bears signed him in Week 12. He ended up starting the final two contests and, while he didn't light up the scoreboard, he showed he still has plenty left in the tank. The 32 year old completed 63 percent of his passes, highest on the team, and led the club to a victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the season finale. The 10-year veteran isn't going to bring the team to a Super Bowl but he's a quality backup who has earned a spot on the roster. Chicago could ink him to one or two years at the veteran minimum and feel comfortable about him as a backup to Cutler.

WR Roy Williams
Williams showed this year that he just doesn't have it anymore. He dropped way too many passes and was invisible in jump ball situations. He had a few solid contests and showed well as a blocker but he nowhere near earned the $2.45 million he was paid last year. Write it down in pen: Williams will not be returning next year.

CB Zack Bowman
After three unproductive seasons with the Bears, Bowman was given one last shot to show his worth. In Week 15, he started in place of Jennings. Green Bay promptly lit him up. He allowed three touchdowns and was called for two pass interference penalties in that contest. Bowman has good speed but he just doesn't have the instincts and awareness to be a contributor at cornerback. His time in Chicago is likely over.

S Brandon Meriweather
Meriweather, a two-time Pro Bowler, was absolutely awful last season. He missed tackles, allowed receivers to beat him deep and was fined by the league for repeatedly leading with his head. In essence, he did nothing for the Bears in 2011. Do not expect him back next year.

LS Chris Massey
Massey was signed after long snapper Patrick Mannelly went on IR with a knee injury. Massey didn't botch a snap and performed his duties very well. Mannelly, the team's longest-tenured player, turns 37 in April. If the team is worried about the health of his knee and feel his career might be over, Massey would be a solid alternative.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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