NFC North Tour: Chicago Bears

What's going on around the NFC North? We start in Chicago, which will watch the first two rounds of the draft because of trades for Jay Cutler and the late Gaines Adams. We have the Bears' offseason strategy, top needs, free agent bios and more.

With the coaching staff finally complete, the Bears can focus on returning to the playoffs after a three-year absence. Unfortunately for coach Lovie Smith, the Bears don't draft until the third round, and they aren't expected to be a major player in a watered-down class of free agents, although they might have the resources to make one big move or a couple smaller acquisitions.

Offseason strategy

It wouldn't be much of a problem if the Bears lost all four (assuming there is no CBA) of their unrestricted free agents, but LB Pisa Tinoisamoa is probably the one they want back the most. He was a major disappointment last season in his first year in Chicago, but that was because of the knee injuries that limited him to less than one full game. Tinoisamoa played well enough in the preseason to win a starting job and, after missing so much time, it's doubtful that he'll get a lot of interest from other teams.

DE Adewale Ogunleye will probably be looking for more money and more years than the Bears care to offer a 32-year-old whose best sack days are probably behind him. But, if there is no market for him, the Bears would welcome him back, since they don't have anyone better on the roster. Gaines Adams, who cost the Bears their second-round pick, could have been the successor to Ogunleye at left end, but he died tragically due to complications from an enlarged heart.

If the Bears let Ogunleye walk, they will be forced to keep restricted free agent Mark Anderson, who has only flashed since a 12-sack rookie season in 2006.

The Bears won't use either tag on any of their players.

Team needs

1. Offensive line: Depending on whether Frank Omiyale stays at left guard or is switched back to his original position at tackle, the Bears need a starting-caliber player at whatever spot Omiyale doesn't play. Actually, based on his inconsistent performances last season, the Bears might even seek an upgrade for Omiyale. QB Jay Cutler must get better protection than he did last season if Mike Martz's offense is to flourish.

2. Defensive end: DLE Adewale Ogunleye is an unrestricted free agent and perennial disappointment Mark Anderson is restricted. Versatile journeyman Israel Idonije could step in for Ogunleye, but ideally the Bears would like someone who provides a better pass rush.

3. Free safety: The roster is full of string-safety types who are capable of physical play and solid run support, but the Bears lack a true ball hawk who is adept at coverage and can patrol the deep middle.

Unrestricted free agents

— LB Darrell McClover is a good special-teams player who isn't a factor on defense and probably won't be back.

— DE Adewale Ogunleye is a solid two-way player who no longer has double-digit sack potential and will be 33 before the start of the 2010 season. He's expected to be back only if he tests the market and finds no buyers.

— RB Adrian Peterson has been a reliable role player for several years as a backup and third-down option who also excels as a coverage guy on special teams. He doesn't expect to return.

— OLB Pisa Tinoisamoa won a starting job in training camp but played less than one full game before knee injuries ended his season. The Bears want him back.

Restricted free agents

(*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)

— *DE Mark Anderson has only showed flashes since his 12-sack rookie season, but if Adewale Ogunleye leaves in free agency, as expected, Anderson could have value at least as a situational pass rusher.

— *S Josh Bullocks saw more action as the season progressed because of injuries to others, but he did not stand out, although he could contend for a starting job in 2010 at a position that is a team weakness.

— NT Dusty Dvoracek wound up on injured reserve before the season started in two of his first four seasons (2006 and '09) in the league and played just one game in '07 before a torn knee ligament landed him on I.R. He started first 12 games in '08 but wound up on I.R. with a torn biceps.

— *S Danieal Manning has played safety, cornerback and nickel back but has not played well enough at any of those positions to keep a starting job, although he is an excellent KOR option.

— LB Nick Roach earned a starting job midway through the '08 season, lost it last training camp to Pisa Tinoisamoa but then wound up starting 15 games when Tinoisamoa and Brian Urlacher were lost early in the season. Roach is undersized but has the speed and athleticism the Bears like in their linebackers.

— *Jamar Williams has never stepped up the way the Bears expected, but he is versatile and a quality backup who could become a capable starter.


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