Let the Games Begin

The start of free agency might have been pushed back more than a week, but it didn't sway the Bears interest in Antwaan Randle El. The team contacted the agent for the receiver at the start of the signing period.

The Chicago Tribute reported that the Bears and Fletcher Smith, Randle El's agent, have discussed a long-term deal in the neighborhood of five to six years and worth more than $20 million.

The Bears have more than $20 million in cap space and have Randle El their top priority in free agency. The early interest could give the Bears the inside track, but it will come down to dollars at the end of the day. The Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles also have Randle El on their wish list.

The chances of Randle El returning to Pittsburgh are slim. Even though every team received an extra $7.5 million in salary cap room each for 2006 under the CBA extension it won't help the Steelers re-sign Randle El.

"In some regards, we would have been better off (the old way) because the other people wouldn't be able to go after our players because they wouldn't have any money," said owner Dan Rooney.

The five-foot-10, 192-pound Randle El would fill two needs for the Bears as a No. 2 receiver opposite Muhsin Muhammad as well as a punt returner. He could also serve as a third quarterback if necessary. During his four-year career, he's scored a touchdown running, receiving, passing, and as a punt and kick returner.

Although general manager Jerry Angelo wouldn't call wideout a need, there has to be a concern with Mark Bradley coming off a torn ACL and Bernard Berrian has struggled to stay on the field with less serious injuries.

"We're going to look at several positions and if we can upgrade we will but to target that in particular I can't say that," Angelo said at the NFL Combine.

If Randle El ends up elsewhere, the free agent market has other starting possibilities but the class isn't deep. Scout.com rates New England's David Givens as the top wideout currently available with Randle El second and Cleveland's Antonio Bryant third.

The Bears were not going to pursue Isaac Bruce, but the fact that he re-signed with the Rams means there's one less option available on the market. The Vikings got a deal done with Koren Robinson before the start of free agency.


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