Nov 17, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) on the sidelines during the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
No team has more expiring contracts heading into 2014 NFL free agency than the Chicago Bears. How do things look for all those players with a month left in the season?
Roberto Garza – C – Outlook: One-Year Deal
A model of consistency for so many years, Roberto Garza has shown his age a lot at times this year despite the solid play of the offensive line. If he does come back, it’s for the short term.
Charles Tillman – CB – Outlook: Two-Year Deal
At one point “Peanut” had some leverage due to all the plays he was making but after an unfortunate series of injuries Charles Tillman will get nothing more than a modest two-year offer to mentor the youngsters.
Zachary Bowman – CB – Outlook: One-Year Deal
In relief of Tillman, the 29-year old Zachary Bowman hasn’t been anything special. He’s adequate but like in the past he still has no consistency and often gets beat.
Kelvin Hayden – CB – Outlook: Free Agent
He was slated as the starting nickel corner to start the season but tore his hamstring. Turning 31 next year, the Bears won’t have any desire to pay him.
Tim Jennings – CB – Outlook: Extension
By far the most consistent playmaker of the secondary, Tim Jennings has proven highly valuable in coverage. His speed is a definite asset and the team will want to keep him in place as they remake the roster.
Derrick Martin – CB – Outlook: Free Agent
An unremarkable reserve who has appeared in three games with one tackle. He’ll be gone by next year.
Sherrick McManis – CB – Outlook: Free Agent
Lauded for his special teams value, Sherrick McManis has a chance to get a short-term deal but more likely is the Bears will look to add younger bodies to the back end of their cornerback depth chart.
Henry Melton – DT – Outlook: Extension
The status of the defensive tackle position virtually guarantees Chicago will extend Henry Melton, but they will get a discount because of his torn ACL, which should allow them to save some cash for other players.
Landon Cohen – DT – Outlook: Free Agent
A late addition signed off the street after Melton went down, Landon Cohen has been nothing more than filler at a very thin position. Fans can expect him to exit stage right next off-season.
Nate Collins – DT – Outlook: Two-Year deal
Unlike Melton, Nate Collins was actually playing good football before he too tore his ACL during the season. He can still be a nice reserve to have and can be had at a reduced price.
Jay Ratliff – DT – Outlook: Free Agent*
Notice the asterisk next to his designation. Jay Ratliff only recently returned from an injury he suffered last season with Dallas. The Bears don’t yet know his value to the team. His debut in Minnesota wasn’t inspiring, but there is still time for a breakout.
Corey Wootton – DE – Outlook: Extension
His numbers don’t reflect it but because he’s been forced to play defensive tackles due to injuries, but there has scarcely been a more reliable defensive lineman than Corey Wootton. He is somebody Chicago will want to keep long-term.
Tony Fiametta – FB – Outlook: Free Agent
Fullbacks don’t get much love in the modern NFL. So Tony Fiametta is in a tough spot. He has certainly helped Matt Forte put together one of the best rushing seasons of his career, but beyond that he doesn’t bring much to the table.
Matt Slauson – G – Outlook: Extension
Arguably the best bargain buy of the 2013 free agency period by any team. Matt Slauson has become a major stabilizing force at left guard, offering consistent pass protection and help in the run game. At age 27, he will get his money from the Bears.
Taylor Boggs – C – Outlook: Free Agent
Clearly an insurance policy for Garza, it’s possible the Chicago Bears could look for help at the position in the draft, making Taylor Boggs expendable despite his impressive rise from the junk heap to making the active roster.
D.J. Williams – MLB – Outlook: Free Agent
It’s really unfortunate because D.J. Williams was playing very well before he got hurt. With him out rookie Jon Bostic and stepped in and repeatedly flashed his potential as a playmaker. Williams will have to find his last multiyear deal somewhere else.
Robbie Gould – K – Outlook: Extension
Up until his tragic miss in Minnesota, Robbie Gould was having one of his best seasons. At age 31 he is in his prime and remains accurate despite the lingering disappointment from week 13. He will get a deserved extension.
Larry Grant – LB – Outlook: Free Agent
Brought in for depth after the injuries to linebacking corps, Larry Grant is a special teams guy who doesn’t project beyond that on this team.
Patrick Mannelly – LS – Outlook: Free Agent
The oldest player on the roster, Patrick Mannelly has been among the best long snappers for years. However, injuries have begun to catch up to him. The time may be right for the Bears to part ways.
Jonathan Scott – OT – Outlook: Free Agent
It’s good news that fans haven’t seen Jonathan Scott because it means the offensive line has stayed healthy. The problem for him was he didn’t right up until the season started. Chicago will want to bring in some youngsters as projects. Scott should be gone.
James Anderson – OLB – Outlook: Extension
The last man standing in an otherwise decimated group of linebackers. James Anderson stepped right in from day one and looked like he belonged. He’s an excellent locker room guy and makes his share of plays. With Briggs turning 34, they will want him around.
Blake Costanzo – MLB – Outlook: One-Year Deal
A special teams ace and captain, Blake Costanzo has found ways to make plays this year though he hasn’t made many tackles. Still, he has at least earned another year to continuing leading the expected influx of young players.
Jerry Franklin – LB – Outlook: One-Year Deal
He made some plays in the preseason and since elevating to the active roster has become a reliable body on special teams. The Bears may want to keep that around.
Jay Cutler – QB – Outlook: Free Agent
The great debate of the entire team 2014 NFL free agency agenda. Jay Cutler looked good this season before he got hurt, but backup Josh McCown has looked better with him out. That is not a good sign. At present it looks like either the Bears will hand him an extension or let him walk. They seem intent on avoiding the franchise tag which would average out to over $16 million.
Josh McCown – QB – Outlook: Two-Year deal
No backup has played better in 2013 for his team than Josh McCown. The 34-year old is looking like a starter who is long overdue for his shot. With Cutler a big question mark, the Bears might look to keep him around for stability, and to mentor a probable youngster brought in via the draft.
Jordan Palmer – QB – Outlook: Free Agent
He performed well in the preseason and has filled in as an emergency backup to McCown but that is about it for Jordan Palmer. His future prospects don’t go beyond that.
Eben Britton – OT – Outlook: Two-Year Deal
Chicago has used Eben Britton extensively as sort of a blocking tight end to help in pass protection and run blocking. He is the clear swing tackle and not suffering from age issues. His veteran presence is something the Bears will probably look to keep.
Craig Steltz – S – Outlook: One-Year Deal
A reliable reserve and special teams ace for several seasons, Craig Steltz has filled in admirably whenever asked. His 12 tackles against Minnesota was a shining example. He’s worth keeping on a short-term deal.
Anthony Walters – S – Outlook: Free Agent
His lone moment in the spotlight came on a bad penalty during an attempt to block a punt. There is little value in having him for defensive depth or they would’ve replaced Chris Conte with him by now.
Major Wright – S – Outlook: Extension
The play of the Bears safeties in general has been ugly quite often at time. Regardless, strong safety Major Wright has looked far more consistent in fulfilling his responsibilities, which is tackling. He will stick around for stability reasons.
Dante Rosario – TE – Outlook: Free Agent
Traded for from Dallas, he has become a big help on special teams aside from one or two gaffes. He may have a chance to stick but if the Bears find a quality tight end in the draft, he’s out.
Devin Hester – KR – Outlook: Two-Year deal
He had a return touchdown this season and had another one taken away because of a penalty. Devin Hester still knows how to create big plays in the return game. Provided the price is right, he should get to stay.