If the Bears Could Only Sign One ...

The Chicago Bears have several players currently on their roster that will become unrestricted free agents Feb. 27. Some of them will likely be back, while some of them certainly will not. But if Jerry Angelo could only re-sign one of them, JC knows who it should be. Do you agree?

Mike Brown

The former Pro Bowler has been the heart and soul of the defense for quite some time, but a laundry list of lower-leg ailments forced him to miss 43 of 64 games from 2004-07 and continued to bother him for 15 contests this past year.

Back when he was operating at full capacity, the second-round pick out of Nebraska was an intimidating playmaker with a nose for the football rarely seen in today's NFL. He may not have been blessed with the physical attributes of a Troy Polamalu or an Ed Reed, but he was a coach on the field and knew exactly where the other 10 members of his defense were going to be – or at least where they should have been – at all times.

Nevertheless, Brown succumbed to IR again before the finale in Week 17, and there were a few other games he couldn't finish over the course of the 2008 season.

Rex Grossman

After finally flashing his first-round potential during the first half of the Super Bowl season of 2006, the former Gator gunslinger came crashing back to mediocrity and lost his job in training camp this past year to Kyle Orton.

The recipe for success is there, as he still has one of the better arms in the game and is respected as a tireless worker both on the field and in the film room. However, he never learned how to deal with pressure because of poor footwork in the pocket, his reckless decision-making led to some crippling turnovers, and the Soldier Field crowd smells blood in the water every time he enters the huddle.

Grossman wasn't happy about losing the gig to Orton and believes he has what it takes to succeed in this league, and he'll likely get another chance – albeit elsewhere – since QBs are always in high demand.

Kevin Jones

The leading rusher in the NFL during the second half of his rookie season back in 2005, the former first-rounder never lived up to his potential in Detroit thanks to a few injuries and a woeful offensive line.


RB Kevin Jones
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Even though the Bears committed to second-round selection Matt Forte in the backfield once they saw how tremendous he looked alongside the veterans in Bourbonnais, adding Jones was still a great idea initially because he could have stepped in capably in case the youngster faltered. But once Forte turned into one of the better all-around backs in the league pretty much right away, Jones got lost in the shuffle and was even inactive for five games.

Chicago needs a complementary ball carrier to help take some of the pressure off of Forte, but Jones isn't necessarily suited for a secondary role.

Brandon Lloyd

It was hard to understand how the former Illinois star wore out his welcome in both San Francisco and Washington, as he comes off as a charming young man and shows flashes of Pro-Bowl ability on the practice field.

Signed off the scrap heap, he worked his way into the starting lineup and looked to be a bargain after catching six passes for 124 yards and a touchdown in Week 3 against the Buccaneers. But an innocent-looking knee sprain the following Sunday versus the Eagles somehow kept him out of the lineup for five games, which didn't sit well with his teammates in the locker room and solidified his reputation as a soft player with diva-like tendencies.

For a team in desperate need of difference makers on the offensive side of the ball, Lloyd disappointed and simply doesn't appear to take football very seriously.

Darrell McClover

While he has never made any impact defensively in the Windy City, he turned himself into somewhat of a special-teams ace for an organization that puts a premium on the third phase.

After Pro Bowler Brendon Ayanbadejo left for Baltimore in free agency, McClover stepped up on the coverage units and even blocked a punt that was returned for a TD in Week 2 at Carolina. He was placed on injured reserve following Week 12 with a bad hamstring, although he still finished third on the ballclub with 14 special teams tackles in just 10 games.

The Bears will have open competition next season for the starting job at strong-side linebacker, but it's difficult to imagine McClover having a realistic shot at it.

Brandon McGowan

It's hard to believe McGowan is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, as he's only suited up for 25 of 64 games in the regular season during his four-year tenure in Chicago.

All that aside, the coaching staff obviously likes the way he plays because the popular Chris Harris was surprisingly traded to the Panthers during training camp in 2007 – then the front office placed a second-round tender on him as a restricted free agent after that campaign. But like Brown, his injury history makes the safety situation tenuous at best.

McGowan's versatility is nice to have because he can play both safety positions in addition to nickel back, although it's impossible to depend on him going forward.

Fred Miller

Once 14th-overall selection Chris Williams went down at Olivet Nazarene University with a herniated disc in his back, the front office didn't take any chances and brought Miller out of retirement before Week 2 to be the primary reserve at offensive tackle.


OT Fred Miller
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

He had a disastrous 2007 at right tackle, giving up a fair amount of sacks and getting whistled for a litany of penalties before deciding to call it a career. But he got some snaps on special teams in '08 for six games while Williams was on the mend – he was ultimately shelved on IR in Week 12.

Miller just turned 36 years old earlier this month, so expect him to hang up his spikes for good this time.

John St. Clair

The injury to Williams blew up the team's plan along the offensive line before it had the chance to take shape, but St. Clair stepped in at the all-important left tackle position and did quite well.

Not only did Forte find room to run on the ground more often than not, but Orton was able to stay on his feet and enjoyed a serviceable season in the passing game. While St. Clair did prove to be less effective as the schedule wore on, he deserves a ton of credit for neutralizing the likes of Dwight Freeney and Julius Peppers in September.

St. Clair was little more than a career reserve before becoming invaluable the last two years, so the Bears could have some competition to keep him for 2009.

Judgment: St. Clair

With word coming over the weekend that John Tait will likely retire, bringing St. Clair back to play right tackle is an absolute necessity.

The Bears are already on record saying Williams is penciled in atop the depth chart at left tackle, but Tait's departure means the right side is up in the air right now. The only other tackle currently on the club for 2009 is undrafted free agent Cody Balogh, who spent all of his rookie season on the practice squad – he's not ready to compete for a starting job.

St. Clair started at left tackle, right tackle, and left guard in 2007 as an emergency fill-in and then manned left tackle for 16 games in '08, so there's reason to believe he can switch again to right tackle in '09 and cushion the blow of Tait's retirement.


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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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