It’s a long way off, but how do things potentially shape up for the Chicago Bears during the 2015 NFL off-season?
Top Team Free Agents
Phil Emery doesn’t seem to mind large groups of free agents every year because he has another big one on the way in 2015. This time the headliners will include star receiver Brandon Marshall, veterans Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman as well as some young but as yet inconsistent notables such as Chris Conte and Stephen Paea. Marshall certainly will be at the top of the list but the Chicago Bears front office should have a solid chunk of salary cap to do what they must.
Top Overall Free Agents
Dez Bryant – WR – Dallas Cowboys
Randall Cobb – WR – Green Bay Packers
Demaryius Thomas – WR – Denver Broncos
Jordan Cameron – TE – Cleveland Browns
Kyle Rudolph – TE – Minnesota Vikings
Greg Hardy – DE – Carolina Panthers
Jared Odrick – DE – Miami Dolphins
Cliff Avril – DE – Seattle Seahawks
Jurrell Casey – DT – Tennessee Titans
Terrance Knighton – DT – Denver Broncos
Vontaze Burfict – OLB – Cincinnati Bengals
Justin Houston – OLB – Kansas City Chiefs
Jerrell Freeman – ILB – Indianapolis Colts
Chris Harris – CB – Denver Broncos
Devin McCourty – FS – New England Patriots
Tashaun Gipson – FS – Cleveland Browns
It’s important to remember that this list will almost certainly shrink as NFL free agency approaches in March of 2015. Re-signings and franchise tags will do their work but there is always a strong possibility that a number of names will slip through the cracks onto the open market. A couple of the names above to watch carefully are Terrance Knighton, Greg Hardy and Randall Cobb. Knighton is on a Denver team that is facing salary cap problems beyond 2014 to the extend where they might struggle hanging on to him despite his prowess as one of the best run stuffers in football. Hardy was given the franchise tag this NFL season but after a recent arrest it could be difficult for Carolina to justify keeping him. As for Cobb, his future will be decided by his play but also how a recent influx of three rookie receivers including Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis do. Never mind the fact that fan favorite Jordy Nelson is also a free agent.
2015 NFL Draft Notables
P.J. Williams – CB – Florida State
Landon Collins – S – Alabama
Cedric Ogbuehi – OT – Texas A&M
Benardrick McKinney – ILB – Mississippi State
Mario Edwards Jr. – DE – Florida State
Jaelen Strong – WR – Arizona State
Obviously it’s very difficult to project what the Chicago Bears roster will need going into the 2015 NFL draft but some areas that tend to occupy the list often include offensive line, cornerback, linebacker, defensive end and wide receiver. P.J. Williams is a big, athletic corner out of Florida State with a knack for ballhawking. Landon Collins comes from a defender factory at Alabama and is built much like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with great size and speed at safety.
Cedric Ogbuehi is almost the consensus best offensive tackle in the 2015 class already and for good reason. Chicago has to start thinking about life beyond Jermon Bushrod who will be 31-years old next August. Benardrick McKinney is an athletic, long linebacker who is a very effective blitzer, something Mel Tucker seems to covet. Mario Edwards battled injuries in 2013 but still managed to impact games for Florida State as a pass rusher. Also, with Marshall in danger of leaving via free agency, the Bears need to considering adding talent at wide receiver. Jaelen Strong is built in their style: 6’4″ with good speed and a penchant for making big plays.
For the first time in years the Chicago Bears are a team ready to win but also have a bright future in the long-term. The 2015 NFL off-season is chalk full of promising talent for them to pursue in both free agency and the draft. Luck will be needed as always but if they stay the course things can get even better from where they are now.