The Bears planned on making a run at Randle El before his playoff performance starting driving up his asking price and interest around the league.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have several other free agent decisions to make aside from trying to re-sign Randle El. If he hits the open market on March 3rd, the Bears will try to strike quickly before they get into a bidding war with another team.
"The money is not the biggest factor," Randle El told the Chicago Tribune. "Of course there's a business side to it. But you have to make sure what is best for your family. You have to make sure you don't go to a team that doesn't have a clue about using a guy like myself. You want to go to a team that understands that I want to be a punt returner and I want to be a starting receiver."
The Bears have an obvious need at punt returner and Randle El would unquestionably be an upgrade. He has an average of 9.5 yards on 168 career attempts and has taken back four for touchdowns.
However, the story is not quite as clear at wide receiver. Randle El, a converted college quarterback, has averaged 40 receptions for 503 yards over four years in the league. Respectable numbers, but are they worthy of a big money contract?
Mark Bradley looked to be coming into his own when he suffered a torn ACL. Although he's expected back for training camp, whether or not he'll be 100 percent is in doubt.
Bernard Berrian came on toward the end of the season and proved he was more than just a fast receiver. Still his slender frame appears to make him prone to minor injuries that will keep him off the field or take away from his effectiveness.
Randle El could come in and immediately be the No. 2 option opposite Muhsin Muhammad. His speed would make opposing defenses respect his ability to beat them deep.
Adding Randle El to the mix at receiver would free up the Bears to address other needs in the draft, much like the team did a year ago with Muhammad.
From their days at Illinois and Indiana respectively, offensive coordinator Ron Turner is also familiar with Randle El the passer. Incorporating Randle El into the offense in an as many phases as possible is when he's most dangerous. He proved in the Super Bowl he's still capable of throwing a 43-yard touch pass on the run. He can be the third quarterback and free up an additional spot on the roster.
When the Bears are desperate for difference makers on offense, it seems like the logical choice to put on a full court press for Randle El. He may not be great in any particular aspect of the game, but his versatility makes him a unique threat.