The Skinny: Finally giving way in the starting lineup to former first-round draft pick Greg Olsen, Clark only caught 19 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns in 2009. Usually one of the more durable players on the entire roster, the former Wake Forest Demon Deacon missed five games due to injury and recorded just three receptions from Weeks 8-15. However, the offense looked much more efficient when he returned to the lineup in Week 16, as the Bears were able to run their two-tight end sets and, therefore, felt comfortable enough to roll Jay Cutler out of the pocket.Odds: 10 to 1. Not only is Clark a respected veteran in the locker room, but neither Olsen nor third stringer Kellen Davis is much of a blocker at this point.
The Skinny: Considered little more than a special teamer this past season, Davis registered career lows in catches (5) and yards (35) since being moved from corner to receiver in 2006. No lock to even make the 53-man roster during training camp and the preseason, the former San Jose State Spartan ultimately won out over underdog Brandon Rideau because of his ability on the coverage units. With young wideouts Devin Aromashodu, Earl Bennett, Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox all having more upside, Davis is again the forgotten man.
Odds: 4 to 1. Never underestimate the voice of special teams coordinator Dave Toub, who has always been a fan of Davis.
The Skinny: Although Harris was rewarded with a lucrative contract extension in the neighborhood of four years and $40 million two summers ago, the Bears did their best to protect themselves and didn't shell out too much money up front comparatively speaking. While at times the former Oklahoma Sooner flashed his Pro Bowl pedigree, he finished 2009 with career lows in both tackles (24) and sacks (2.5). His $1.235 million salary is palatable, but that $2.5 million roster bonus staring Chicago in the face this June might be too big a check to write.
Odds: 3 to 1. With no salary cap likely on the horizon for 2010, the Bears can cut their losses with Harris and not cripple themselves financially down the road.
The Skinny: With both Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa missing almost the entire season with injuries, Hillenmeyer was an unsung hero for his efforts at middle linebacker. However, Urlacher is expected to make a full recovery and return in 2010, plus the Bears have already floated the idea of re-signing Tinoisamoa because they liked what they saw before his knee problems. Not only is his $1.7 million salary a lot of money to spend on a reserve, but he isn't nearly the special teamer fellow 'backers Darrell McClover, Tim Shaw and Jamar Williams are.
Odds: 5 to 1. Since the Bears sometimes keep as many as seven linebackers on the active roster, Hillenmeyer stands a fighting chance.
The Skinny: Limping his way through 11 games in 2008 coming off a torn knee from the season before, a healthier Jones was supposed to be a bigger part of the offense behind featured back Matt Forte. But that never happened, as the former Virginia Tech Hokie tore ankle ligaments on a freak play in the preseason finale and spent the entire campaign on injured reserve. Since a 1,133-yard performance in Detroit as a rookie, Jones has missed 31 of 80 contests and would cost about three times as much as Kahlil Bell, who did a commendable job in limited opportunities.
Odds: 2 to 1. The only thing saving Jones right now is his familiarity with offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system while a member of the Lions.
The Skinny: At best an average center these days, Kreutz hasn't been selected to the Pro Bowl since 2006 even though he made every all-decade team imaginable this offseason. While nobody will confuse Chicago's skill-position talent with that of Super Bowl XLIV participants New Orleans and Indianapolis, it was brutal blocking up front preventing the Bears from being better on offense this past season. If Josh Beekman is considered the former Washington Husky's heir apparent, maybe that plan needs to be implemented a year early.
Odds: 15 to 1. Kreutz will spend most of the offseason rehabbing after surgery, but new offensive line coach Mike Tice has already raved about him.
The Skinny: Expected to be a temporary fill-in at left tackle while 2008 first rounder Chris Williams knocked some of the rust off on the right side, Pace was a complete disaster and looked nothing like a seven-time Pro Bowler and eventual first-ballot Hall of Famer. After the former Ohio State Buckeye suffered a groin injury and Williams flipped back to his natural home at left tackle, the Bears finally started to resemble a legitimate NFL offensive line. Pace signed with Chicago in part because he wanted to stay on the left side, but his tank appears to be empty.
Odds: Off the board. At that lofty price, Pace may be the only veteran hitting the cutting-room floor faster than Nathan Vasher.
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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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