GM Phil Emery doesn’t need pointers on how to deal with the long list of in-house free agents the Chicago Bears must sift through. However, based on recent maneuvers it’s clear he might have a focus in mind for NFL free agency.
Tim Jennings and Kelvin Hayden deals retain veteran presence
The defense is expected to get most, if not all the attention when the market opens in under two weeks but already the Bears have been hard at work locking up particular free agents of their own. Tim Jennings, their best player in 2013 was quickly inked to a long-term extension right after the season ended. Not long after special teams ace and reserve corner Derrick Martin signed a one-year deal. Recently news broke that 30-year old veteran corner Kelvin Hayden, who missed last season with a torn hamstring, also signed a one-year contract. These moves have retained three of the six scheduled Bears corners who will hit the open market. Only Charles Tillman, Zack Bowman and Sherrick McManis remain without new deals. Tillman of course is the big fish whom many are debating should stay or go at age 33 after missing most of last season with various ailments. Bowman was his replacement and held his own as the starter during the second half of the season. McManis was a stable reserve who thrived on special teams. There is a good chance the Bears will retain one or two of them. Either way it’s clear the team has a plan in mind, and it may involve using NFL free agency to round out the secondary.
Alterraun Verner and Antoine Bethea could round out new lineup
It’s not a bad plan by any means. The 2014 draft class is reportedly rich with defensive backs, meaning the Chicago Bears brass will likely be able to secure some talented youth in the middle to late rounds, leaving the early rounds to rebuild what was an atrocious front seven at defensive line and linebacker. If that trend holds then it means the team will go shopping on the open market for upgrades at corner and safety. Alterraun Verner would have to be on their radar then. The 25-year old had a breakout season in Tennessee with five interceptions but is expected to leave town due to defensive scheme shifts. He isn’t the biggest but he’s athletic, instinctive and scrappy with receivers. That would leave safety as the last position to address. Based on what happens with the Colts, Chicago might have a real shot at landing veteran Antoine Bethea. A two-time Pro Bowler who hasn’t missed a game in three years, he is sturdy, smart, dependable and a good leader on the back end.
Their additions would give the Chicago Bears secondary a nice mix of young and seasoned and allow for a full overhaul up front.