The Freak is loose

With money to spend the Bears should focus on doing one thing in free agency, bringing Jevon Kearse to Chicago. When the Tennessee Titans decided not to place the franchise tag on the player known as "The Freak" they made several teams drool at the possibility of adding the defensive end.

Kearse is exactly what the Bears defense needs to implement Lovie Smith's system that places importance on speed and pressuring the quarterback. Kearse, who has wide receiver speed in a defensive ends body, has 47.5 sacks in 65 career games. He's also forced 24 fumbles during his five-year career.

Getting a pass rush from the front four is critical to Smith's cover 2 scheme, which in turn allows the secondary to sit back and concentrate solely on coverage.

Last season the Bears had to send an array of blitz packages to get any type of pressure on the quarterback. The defensive line totaled 12 sacks as a unit. Alex Brown represented 5.5 sacks and knows Kearse well from being teammates for two years at Florida.

"Any team that could get a Jevon Kearse would be blessed," said Brown. "He was very helpful and he's got a lot of god given talent."

Although the Bears spent a first-round choice on Michael Haynes a year ago, adding Kearse wouldn't mean the choice was a mistake. There's no guarantee that Brown or Haynes will be top-flight defensive ends that can consistently get to the quarterback. Despite injury concerns, Kearse has proven to be one of the NFL's elite sack masters. In any case the defensive line would quickly go from lacking depth at defensive line to having one of the better young trios in the league.

Phillip Daniels is working to renegotiate his contract in order to stay in Chicago, but despite being a solid run stopped he has never proven to be able to get to the quarterback on a regular basis.

If Daniels, Warrick Holdman and Kordell Stewart are all cut before March 2nd the Bears will have approximately $16-18 million to work with in the free agent market.

If the Tennessee Titans had tagged Kearse he would have paid $6.5 million for one season. At this point Tennessee still hopes to bring Kearse back, but considering the team reportedly needs to shed $13.8 million to get under the salary cap it will not be easy.

If fact, Reese believes not tagging Kearse may actually help the negotiation process.

"If we didn't use it what it would mean is that we would think it would be in our best interest and probably in his best interest to let him go out on the marketplace and see what's available," Reese told the Tennessean. "Once he gets a feel for the market place, he might have a better feel for us."

Numerous teams will pursue Kearse, who will be 28 at the start of next season. At this point it's hard to say what kind of money will be able to command. In any case it won't be cheap, but no matter the cost there's no reason the Bears shouldn't be major players in the sweepstakes.

The Bears chances of upgrading the other side of the line through free agency decreased Tuesday. The Seattle Seahawks placed the franchise tag on left tackle Walter Jones. The Kansas City Chiefs put their "transition" tag on right tackle John Tait, which gives the team to chance to match any offers he receives. The Chiefs drafted Tait, a five-year veteran, with the 14th overall pick in the 1999 draft.


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