Oct 20, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman (33) runs after an interception against the Washington Redskins during the first half at FedEX Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

How Should the Chicago Bears Juggle their Top Remaining Free Agents?

No team has more free agents to balance on their pay-scale than the Chicago Bears.  What likely fates are in store for all the pending names?

Josh McCown – QB – Re-sign:  Yes

If it were four years ago then this would be a different situation but at age 35 it’s highly unlikely that Josh McCown will find a starting job elsewhere, especially with Mark Sanchez and Michael Vick expected to be available.  He’s best served returning.

Roberto Garza – C – Re-sign:  Yes

Like McCown the old veteran is winding down but Roberto Garza continue to remain effective and a great leader for the young linemen the Bears have installed.  He should see a modest one or two-year deal.

Taylor Boggs – C – Re-sign:  No

He played well in training camp and preseason but is Taylor Boggs really a long-term option for Garza?  While it’s debatable the reality is it isn’t likely.  He may stay on as a backup but more likely the Bears go hunting for Garza’s real replacement.

Eben Britton – T – Re-sign:  Yes

He may not have started any games but Eben Britton was a highly valuable blocker for the Bears throughout the season and a capable backup.  He may try to land a starting job elsewhere, but he should get an extension as the permanent swing tackle in Chicago.

Jonathan Scott – T – Re-sign:  No

The Bears will want to keep getting young on the offensive line and that means cutting loose older veterans.  Jonathan Scott was a nice depth piece but he’s getting old and had trouble staying healthy last year.

Dante Rosario – TE – Re-sign:  Yes

Trading for him proved fruitful.  Dante Rosario is not a starting tight end but he’s an able backup who lends his talent most to the special teams where he proved a fine addition.  He should get some kind of short-term deal.

Henry Melton – DT – Re-sign:  Yes

This is probably the toughest decision upcoming for the Chicago Bears brass.  Henry Melton is still young despite coming off a torn ACL and they could really use him to reinvigorate the lifeless defensive tackle position.  The question will be how much he demands in free agency.  In the end he’ll find no teams willing to pay his price.

Landon Cohen – DT – Re-sign:  No

There really isn’t much to say.  He was a late addition off the free agent heap and didn’t do much other than take up a roster spot.

Nate Collins – DT – Re-sign:  No

When Melton went down, Nate Collins stepped in and performed admirably but he’s getting older and coming off a torn ACL himself now.  Unless he accepts the veteran minimum it’s not likely he stays.

Jeremiah Ratliff – DT – Re-sign:  Yes

It didn’t save the day but Emery was right when he brought in Jeremiah Ratliff after the Cowboys cut him.  The four-time Pro Bowler got better as the season went on and could recapture his old form in 2014.  Chicago will want to find out.

Corey Wootton – DE – Re-sign:  Yes

Defensive end is really hurting heading into free agency.  Part of the problem is player leaving, either for free agency or other positions.  Corey Wootton is headed for the open market, but don’t expect the Bears to let him get that far.

Cheta Ozougwu – DE – Re-sign:  No

A practice squad standout the past few seasons, Cheta Ozougwu found ways to contribute in 2013 but he’s nothing more than an emergency depth player.  It’s unlikely he’ll stick at a position that’s expected to get a makeover.

James Anderson – OLB – Re-sign:  No

He led the team in tackles, which has to count for something.  The problem is both Shea McClellin and Jon Bostic are expecting to move to outside linebacker, which essentially makes the older James Anderson expendable.

D.J. Williams – MLB – Re-sign:  Yes

At the same time Bostic moving outside opens the door for D.J. Williams to get a second chance.  He performed well at middle linebacker prior to getting hurt and though Chicago wants to get younger they may want to keep him in the middle for the time being.

Blake Costanzo – MLB – Re-sign:  No

He’s been a special teams ace for the Bears the past few years but Blake Costanzo is aging on a team trying to get younger.  His roster spot will likely be held for a rookie inside linebacker to learn behind Williams.

Charles Tillman – CB – Re-sign:  No

Another really tough decision.  The problem is Charles Tillman thinks he has options and he does.  If the Bears can’t meet his price, which it’s likely they won’t, then he has every right to leave if he wants to because they won’t franchise tag him.

Zackary Bowman – CB – Re-sign:  Yes

The thing is if Tillman does leave then it’s important the Bears hang on to Zackary Bowman.  While not a star by any means, he filled in admirably after Tillman got hurt.  Having him will provide stability until the front office can bring in some help.

Kelvin Hayden – CB – Re-sign:  No

He was a nice option at the nickel position but his ongoing injury problems have hit that point-of-no-return line.  Highly unlikely he makes an appearance in navy blue again.

Derrick Martin – CB – Re-sign:  No

He was merely a depth addition and special teams help during the season after a practice squad stint.  Don’t expect him to get much consideration.

Sherrick McManis – CB – Re-sign:  Yes

There’s a chance he’s in the same boat as Martin but Sherrick McManis is a capable enough reserve and a regular contributor on special teams.  The Bears will want to hang onto him for depth in both areas.

Major Wright – SS – Re-sign:  No

Fans better get ready because serious changes are coming to the safety position, and it will start by letting Major Wright walk in free agency.  He was too inconsistent all year both in run and pass coverage.

Craig Steltz – SS – Re-sign:  No

The same fate will await Craig Steltz.  While he is a definite special teams help, he’s just not fast and athletic enough to warrant what Phil Emery has in mind for this defense moving forward.

Anthony Walters – SS – Re-sign:  No

Another special teams helper but nothing much more than that.  He flashed on occasion in preseason but the kid isn’t athletic or disciplined enough.

Devin Hester – KR – Re-sign:  No

Dave Toub is in Kansas City and now Lovie Smith is in TampaBay.  Devin Hester wants to stay with the Chicago Bears but they may want to save his roster spot for other areas of need.  Given the options available, he’s more likely to head elsewhere.

Patrick Mannelly – LS – Re-sign:  Yes

The grizzled, old veteran endured a tough injury during the season but returned to his usual efficient form towards the stretch run.  The Bears should give him a short deal to let him finish his solid career with the same team.

Tags: Charles Tillman Chicago Bears Corey Wootton D.J. Williams Henry Melton

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