Thanks to the Jay Cutler deal, the Chicago Bears will have to spend their money wisely in 2014 NFL free agency. Here are some possible bargains.
Darren McFadden – RB – Oakland Raiders
Matt Forte had a career year but his backup Michael Bush was largely quiet. The Bears need to get more out of the backup spot to give Forte a breather. Darren McFadden announced he would leave the Oakland Raiders and test free agency. His value is unlikely to be high though due to injury problems. On the other hand, his skill set would mesh well with the Bears system. Also, since he would be sharing carries with Forte, his body would take less of a beating. It could be the ideal situation for him to repair his value.
Mike Neal – DE/OLB – Green Bay Packers
Defensive end figures to become a real problem for Chicago in 2014 unless they do some restructuring. What better way to do that than by also weakening a division rival. Mike Neal had 5.5 sacks for the Green Bay Packers in ten starts this past season. Unfortunately his ongoing injury issues have left him in flux with his current team and might see him hit the open market. He boasts the size at 6’3″, 285 lbs to play defensive end and would be able to maintain his health if he came in on a rotation basis.
Vance Walker – DT – Oakland Raiders
The position that largely killed the Bears in 2013 was defensive tackle. They lost three key players at the position before the season was even half over, two to injury and one to abrupt retirement. It must be bolstered or Chicago risks history repeating itself. If they can’t afford a top name, then they should keep their eyes on Vance Walker. The 26-year old quietly had a productive season for Oakland, notching 40 tackles and three sacks. His big 305 lbs frame would lend a big hand defending the run as well.
Chris Clemons – S – Miami Dolphins
Both safeties in the defense were exposed for Chicago throughout the season. They looked lost in coverage and too often took bad angles on running plays. Revamping the position is a must. His numbers aren’t gaudy, but Chris Clemons was one of the unsung heroes of the Miami Dolphins defense. He made 92 tackle and deflected eights passes despite having just one interception. On top of that he hasn’t missed a game in three years.
Everson Griffen – DE – Minnesota Vikings
Keeping in the same scenario as Green Bay, the Chicago Bears have an opportunity to weaken another divisional foe in the Minnesota Vikings. One of their well kept secrets is defensive end Everson Griffen. Despite not starting a single game for them in 2013, he still managed to notch 5.5 sacks. The guy is a natural pass rusher with a solid 273-lbs frame. Whether he’s good enough to start is up for debate, but he’s certainly worth a look provided the price is fair.
Emmanuel Sanders – WR – Pittsburgh Steelers
The 2014 NFL free agency period can be about finding a star but mostly it should be about finding quality depth. One area the Bears should look to shore up is the slot receiver position. Earl Bennett failed to get adequate production from there. What Chicago could use is somebody with more speed. Pittsburgh Steelers wide out Emmanuel Sanders would qualify. While not a burner he has the speed, agility and athleticism to thrive consistently beat linebackers and safeties from the slot position. Playing between Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall could only help his cause and take the Bears offense to the next level.