The familiar refrain amongst Chicago Bears players, coaches, management and fans was the need for a true No. 1 wide receiver. The team invested heavily in a franchise quarterback and have since surrounded him with mediocrity at the wideout position.
Bears GM Phil Emery was listening and traded for Brandon Marshall, a three-time Pro Bowler, seconds after the start of free agency.
Another cry of the Chicago faithful has been for upgrades along the offensive line. Pass protection up front has been brutal the past two seasons. The Bears led the NFL in sacks allowed in 2010 and gave up the fifth most last season.
The belief is that, until Jay Cutler can get some consistent time in the pocket, Chicago's offense will never take the next step.
Again, it appears Emery feels the same way.
G Anthony Herrera
Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire
The Bears met yesterday with former-Vikings guard Anthony Herrera, whom coordinator Mike Tice coached in Minnesota. The 31-year-old could provide experience, depth and flexibility -- he has experience at center as well.
And it looks like the search will be ongoing.
"We're always searching to improve our team and add depth," Emery said today on a conference call with the media. "We've brought in one offensive guard so far to take a look at. There will be others."
Yet the hunt won't end in free agency.
"We'll look very hard at the draft [for offensive linemen]," said Emery.
The offensive line should see some improvement next season with the return of RT Gabe Carimi and LG Chris Williams, arguably the team's top two linemen, both of whom ended the season on injured reserve.
"I know Gabe Carimi is in the facility every day going through his rehab, getting a lot better," said coach Lovie Smith. "I'm excited about getting him and Chris Williams back, guys that missed a lot of time last year."
On the positive side, the Bears rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a team last year, the first time a Bears squad has done so since 1990. The front office gave C Roberto Garza and G Edwin Williams two-year extensions last season and Tice recently gave J'Marcus Webb, the consensus weak link up front, a vote of confidence.
Apparently, not everyone is down on the front five.
"Offensive line and all other positions, we're looking at guys, but I like the group that we have," Smith said. "I like the look of our offensive line with the guys we have lined up right now."
I have always felt the coaching staff overvalued the current group of offensive linemen and have been too patient regarding the progress of guys like Webb and Lance Louis. It's loyalty to a fault.
Obviously, Emery, the new guy with no ties to anyone on the roster, feels the same way. Despite the confidence professed by Chicago's coaching staff, the offensive line must improve if the Bears are going to win a championship, and Emery knows it.
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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.