Bears try to Downplay Free Agent Plan

It is business as usual at the Indianapolis Combine for the Chicago Bears: meeting with agents, talking with players from the collegiate level looking to take the next step up to the professional level, and attempting to quash any talk about free agency.

The free agency period could prove to be an interesting one for the Bears. Representatives for the organization have been coy regarding their plans this off-season, but when the name Antwaan Randle-El is mentioned, the team quickly moves from the subject, stating they are not permitted to discuss players under contract.

If the truth be told, while Randle-El is under contract through March 2nd, the explosive receiver/kick return specialist is going to be a hot commodity once the free agent player signing period commences on March 3rd.

"Everybody in the game knows the Bears are going hard after Randle-El. He is an element missing from that team. He is a special player and one which can change the complexion and game-plan of an opposing defense," one NFC scout said.

The Bears are looking for a legitimate threat to team with Muhsin Muhammad, and their offense desperately needs an influx of explosive talent to team with their imposing defense.

When asked about having a second receiver currently on the 53-man roster, coach Lovie Smith proved how uncertain the situation is as he went through his entire depth chart at the position.

"Just talking about the season a little bit, Mark Bradley was playing great ball when he went down," Smith said. "From there we like the progress Justin Gage was able to make. Airese Currie, of course, is a player that will step up for us and hopefully we can get some work out of him. And at the end of the season nobody made as much progress as Bernard Berrian did for us. He played outstanding football, especially in that last playoff game."

Even if the Bears land Randle El, some wonder if the talent around him will allow for his unique abilities to be utilized properly.

"Getting a player of Randle-El's potential would be a solid move for the Bears, but the next question is going to whether they have the talent at quarterback and along the offense line to make a significant difference," the scout concluded.

The Bears aren't as concerned about their offensive line as those outside the organization. The starting unit will be intact for next season, but three members are over the age of 30. Finding a guard and tackle to groom for the future is important in this year's draft.

Quarterback is definitely a question mark. Rex Grossman has just seven regular season starts in three years. Talent isn't the concern as much as his ability to stay healthy. One benefit Grossman will have, if he can stay on the field, is working in the same system for a second straight year. He worked with a different offensive coordinator each of his first three seasons in the league. Ron Turner will return in 2006 and give Grossman a chance to grow within his West Coast system.

Adding a multi-dimensional threat like Randle El would certainly help speed up the development process for Grossman and possibly the entire offense.


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