Analyzing every Bears free-agent move

The Chicago Sun-Times’ experts break down free-agent moves  — and what they mean for the Bears:

March 23

The move: The Bears will sign quarterback Mark Sanchez, sources said. (9 p..m)

Patrick Finley: Signing Sanchez to a one-year deal — which the Bears confirmed early Friday morning — is a pure depth move, no matter how apoplectic some Bears fans seem to be about the possibility of him playing. The Bears like Sanchez’s ability to mentor Mike Glennon and, perhaps, a selected in the top half of the draft. Sanchez played collegiately at USC and was the fifth overall pick of the Jets, so he knows how to navigate big-city attention — and should be able to pass that wisdom along to Glennon, who GM Ryan Pace anointed the starter earlier this month.

Bears GM Ryan Pace vowed not to overpay in free agency. (AP)

The move: The Packers signed defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois to a one-year deal worth $3 million, according to ESPN. (3:33 p.m.)

Adam L. Jahns: Jean-Francois met with the Bears a few days ago. It was said to be a good meeting, but the Bears reached a deal with defensive lineman C.J. Wilson a day after it. Jean-Francois was intriguing because he played with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio with the 49ers.

March 21

The move: The Bears signed running back Benny Cunningham to a one-year deal and, sources said, agreed to the return of receiver Deonte Thompson on a one-year contract. (9 p.m.) 

Patrick Finley: There’s your kick returner battle. Cunningham’s 27.1-yard average last year with the Rams was the fourth-highest since 2013, while Thompson averaged 23 yards on a league-high 35 attempts. Cunningham is a catch-first running back by trade, but both he and Thompson will make or break their roster chances with their return prowess. It’s hard to see both making the team.

March 20

The move: The Bears re-signed safety Chris Prosinski and defensive tackle C.J. Wilson. (5 p.m.)

Patrick Finley: Prosinski has carved out a niche with the Bears as a special teams stalwart — he played on all four units and finished third on the team with seven special teams tackles last year. He’s shown he can play safety in a pinch — though the Bears probably would prefer him as a steady backup. Wilson played six games for the Bears last year and will push new signee John Jenkins for the backup job behind nose tackle Eddie Goldman.

March 19

The move: The Bears met with defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois. (9 p.m.)

Patrick Finley: The two sides didn’t reach a deal, and the former Redskins standout has since moved on to meet with the Seahawks and Packers. He’d help fill one of the last gaping holes left on the Bears’ defense — an end spot opposite Akiem Hicks. The Bears could draft Jonathan Allen to fill that spot, too.

March 17

The move: The Bears signed defensive tackle John Jenkins. (noon)

Patrick Finley: The 6-3, 359-pound behemoth should provide run-stopping mojo. Bears GM Ryan Pace knows what he’s getting — he drafted the Georgia alum in the third round in 2013. Jenkins started 22 games over three-plus years before being released in November and signed by the Seahawks.

March 14

The move: The Bears announced that the team has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with kicker Connor Barth. (11:37 a.m.)

Adam L. Jahns: Barth had his struggles last season, but the Bears’ confidence in him didn’t waver. Replacing Robbie Gould added additional pressure and increased expectations. Barth missed five goals last season. Overall, re-signing Barth maintains continuity. Long snapper Patrick Scales was re-signed to a one-year deal earlier this month. Punter/holder Pat O’Donnell, meanwhile, is in the final season of his rookie contract.

March 11

The move: The Bears agreed to sign receiver Kendall Wright to a one-year deal, league sources confirm. (7:10 p.m.)

Patrick Finley: Wright could slot into the, um, slot role for the Bears, particularly if they decide to part with Eddie Royal. Like Markus Wheaton, he’s shown some versatility earlier in his career, too, meaning one of the two could line up outside. He’s three years removed from his career-best season, catching 94 balls for 1,079 yards.

The move: The Bears agreed to terms with tackle Tom Compton to a one-year deal, per league sources. (6:30 p.m.)

Patrick Finley: Compton, who played 16 games but did not start for the Falcons last year, gives the Bears’ two starting tackles — Charles Leno on the left and Bobby Massie on the right — competition that they lacked last season. A swing tackle, he could challenge for more if they struggle.

The move: The Bears sign former Cardinals cornerback Marcus Cooper to a three-year contract. (4:21 p.m.)

Adam L. Jahns: Of the three cornerbacks the Bears have signed in free agency, Cooper has the most upside.  A former seventh-round pick of the 49ers in 2013, Cooper, 27, started a career-high 13 games last year for the Cardinals. He had four interceptions, which included a pick-six, and broke up team-best 11 passes. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians spoke very highly of him at the NFL Scouting Combine:
“I’d like to get Coop back. It looks like Coop is going to get a helluva lot of money. Y’all keep saying Coop’s no good; he was a Pro Bowl alternate, had four interceptions. It looks like the price is going up pretty high for him.”

The move: Cornerback Johnthan Banks wrote on Twitter that he was returning to the Bears. (2:30 p.m.) The Bears announced later that he signed a one-year deal.

Patrick Finley: The Bears signed Banks the first week of December after he’d played for the Buccaneers and Lions during a four-year career. He started two games for the Bears the rest of the way. Banks is likely a depth piece for the Bears, but his 6-2 frame is intriguing to a coaching staff that prefers its outside cornerbacks to be tall.

The move: The Bears re-signed linebacker Christian Jones to a one-year deal. (10:50 a.m.)

Patrick Finley: Jones emerged as a specialist stalwart last season, playing three-quarters of the Bears’ special teams downs. His versatility — he can play outside and inside linebackers — helps the Bears’ depth, too. The Bears signed Jones as an undrafted free agent in 2014.

March 10

The move: Tight end Martellus Bennett is signing with the Packers, per reports. (5:40 p.m.)

Patrick Finley: The Packers signing a big-ticket free agent is nothing short of stunning, and Bennett vowed that he would be overpaid after winning a Super Bowl in New England. The Patriots traded for Dwayne Allen to take Bennett’s place, so a return to the Patriots was never in the cards. He’s an immediate upgrade at tight end for Aaron Rodgers, and will try to remind the Bears of that when they play twice a year.

The move: The Bears announce a two-year deal for wide receiver Markus Wheaton.

Patrick Finley: Wheaton will be compared to Alshon Jeffery, given the timing of his signing, but he shouldn’t be. Wheaton moved to slot receiver two years ago, and thrived. He was limited to a five-game, a four-catch, 51-yard season in 2016 because of a shoulder injury. His signing likely portends the end of Eddie Royal’s tenure in Chicago — the Bears can walk away from him with no penalty — and gives the team a speed element it lacked last year. Lined up alongside Kevin White and Cam Meredith, the fifth-year Wheaton will, amazingly, be the most veteran of the group.

The move: The Bears announce three-year contracts with quarterback Mike Glennon, safety Quintin Demps and tight end Dion Sims. (12:25 p.m.)

Patrick Finley: Glennon and Demps analysis is below. Sims will become the Bears’ main blocking tight end, with hopes that he can round out his game as a pass-catcher. The Bears lacked a proven blocker at the position last year, though they’re developing MyCole Pruitt. Zach Miller and Daniel Brown are considered better pass-catchers than blockers.

Sims caught 26 passes for 256 yards last season, his fourth with the Dolphins. He had 24 catches for a career-high 284 yards in 2014

The move: The Bears agree to terms on a one-year contract with former Jaguars cornerback Prince Amukamara (10:39 a.m).

Adam L. Jahns: The Bears needed to add a cornerback after missing on Stephon Gilmore, A.J. Bouye and Logan Ryan on the first day of free agency. Amukamara, a first-round pick of the Giants in 2011, didn’t make an interception last year for the Jaguars, but he is considered solid in coverage. His arrival allows Cre’Von LeBlanc and Bryce Callahan to focus on playing in the slot. Cornerback, though, will be a priority for the Bears in the draft.

The move: Quarterback Mike Glennon will receive $18.5 million guaranteed in a three-year, $45 million deal, according to Adam L. Jahns. The Bears will pay him $16 million in his first year. (9 a.m)

Patrick Finley: The structure, as expected, is far more reasonable than the dollar figures. The Bears have limited their risk in case Glennon struggles, but will pay below the going rate for decent starting quarterbacks if he excels for three seasons. The contract gives the Bears the flexibility not only to draft a quarterback, but to move on from Glennon in Year 2 or 3 if they prefer the draftee. Full details are HERE.

The move: Former Bears guard Ted Larsen to sign a three-year deal with the Dolphins, sources confirmed. (12:40 a.m.)

Patrick Finley: The Bears’ re-signing of Eric Kush last month seemed to preclude a reunion with Larsen, the guard who started eight games for the Bears last year. Larsen was signed last year as a potential starter, but lost his center and guard jobs before Week 1 when Cody Whitehair moved to center and Josh Sitton was signed to play guard.

March 9

The move: The 49ers sign former Bears quarterback Matt Barkley. (11:05 p.m.)

Patrick Finley: The Bears had some genuine interest in retaining Barkley, who was at times serviceable in his six starts for the Bears. Instead, Barkley — who completed 129-of-216 passes for eight touchdowns, 14 interceptions and 1,611 yards — will follow Brian Hoyer to San Francisco.

The moves: The Titans agreed to terms with former Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan on a three-year deal. (10:32 p.m.)

Adam L. Jahns: The Bears miss out on another top cornerback, following Stephon Gilmore and A.J. Bouye. The Bears still need to add a cornerback. It’s a must. It might be a great year to draft one, but you can never have enough quality cornerbacks. Losing out on Gilmore, Bouye and Ryan stings.

The move: The 49ers signed tight end Logan Paulsen to a one-year deal. (7 :10 p.m.)

Patrick Finley: He caught three passes in 12 games this season; the Bears will find a different blocking tight end.

The move: The 49ers signed kicker Robbie Gould to a two-year deal. (6 p.m.)

Patrick Finley: Technically not a Bears move, we know — but the franchise’s all-time leading scorer goes from the Giants, where he signed after he was a surprise cut last season, to the 49ers.

The move: Cornelius Washington will sign a two-year deal with the Lions. (3:55 p.m.)

Patrick Finley: The defensive lineman found his groove last year, playing 364 snaps as a defensive end. The Bears will try to develop third-round draft pick Jonathan Bullard as a rotation lineman, though he was benched for a game last year.

The move: The Jaguars agree to terms with former Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye (3:39 p.m.)

Adam L. Jahns: The Bears had interest in Bouye from early on in the free-agency process. But the Jaguars paid out … again. According to the Houston Chronicle, Bouye got a five-year, $67.5 million contract, including $26 million fully guaranteed. That’s quite the haul for the former undrafted free agent.

The move: The Eagles agree to terms with receiver Alshon Jeffery on a one-year deal worth a reported $14 million. (3:05 p.m.)

Adam L. Jahns: Jeffery’s market wasn’t thought it would be. He essentially gets another one-year, prove-it deal that’s worth less than his $14.6 million franchise tag with the Bears last season. The Bears were concerned about committing to a player who dealt with various injuries in 2015 and was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s rules for performance-enhancing drugs last season. It looks like other teams felt the same. The Bears, though, are really thin at receiver with Jeffery gone. They had interest in speedster Kenny Stills, who re-signed with the Dolphins. The Bears thanked Jeffery on Twitter.

The move: The Bears will release Jay Cutler. (12:45 p.m.)

Patrick Finley: The move comes as no surprise, as the wooing of Mike Glennon — and others — further confirmed the Bears lacked the appetite to pay Cutler $12.5 million to play his ninth season in Chicago. Cutler will become a free agent and will begin searching for a new team, preferably one that allows him to compete for a starting job. (The Jets jump out as a candidate). They will also be able to test the labrum in his throwing shoulder, which underwent surgery after he was hurt in Week 11.

Former Bears general manager Phil Emery — who signed Cutler to a seven-year, $126.7 million extension three years ago — infamously defined an elite quarterback as someone who won more than they lost. Cutler finishes his Bears career 51-51 in the regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs — though many of the team’s flaws in recent years had little to do with him. He suffered through the two worst defenses in Bears history under Marc Trestman, and posted perhaps his finest season in 2016 under offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

The Bears’ new regime never truly warmed to him, though, and is taking a chance on the Buccaneers backup rather than running the soon-to-be 34-year-old back out on the field for less money. They explored the trade market for Cutler, but to no avail.

Cutler’s teammates held him in higher regard than many fans did. Early Thursday, guard Kyle Long posted what amounted as a farewell to his friend, Tweeting that “I’d give my leg for this dude…. but I’m excited to see what happens next.”

The move: Former Texans safety Quintin Demps will sign a three-year, $13.5 million deal to join the Bears, sources confirmed. (10:50 a.m.)

Patrick Finley: Demps will turn 32 in June, so he’s not a long-term solution. But he had six interceptions last season — and the Bears had only 11 takeaways. The UTEP alum started his career with the Eagles, playing two seasons, before spending three with the Texans, one with the Chiefs and the last two back in Houston. He’s started 26 games over the past two seasons.

The Bears are looking to upgrade their safety position both via free agency and the draft. They want to push incumbents Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey, both of whom might be better suited as backups.

Demps, however, doesn’t figure to help them on special teams. He didn’t play a single snap as a specialist for the Texans last year, though he’s returned kicks in the past — though not regularly since 2013.

The move: Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore will sign with the Patriots, per ESPN. (9 a.m.)

Adam L. Jahns: The Bears were very interested in Gilmore, the 10th overall pick in the 2012 draft who turns 27 in September. Gilmore fit the Bears’ need for playmakers in the secondary, making five interceptions and breaking up 12 passes last year. But he’s not the only cornerback the Bears were interested in. The Bears also were eyeing A.J. Bouye (Texans) and Logan Ryan (Patriots).

March 8

The move: Bears free agent quarterback Brian Hoyer plans to sign with the 49ers.

Patrick Finley: Hoyer was impressive last year, completing 134-of-200 passes and setting the Bears’ franchise records with a 98.0 passer rating and 67 percent completion mark. However, he went 1-4 as a starter and led the team to only six touchdown passes before breaking his arm in Green Bay.

Hoyer said his goodbyes at Halas Hall this week when it was clear a Bears deal was unlikely.

Hoyer will stabilize the 49ers’ quarterback position — heck, he’s the only one under contract — while the Bears seem destined for Mike Glennon, the Buccaneers backup, to at least bridge the gap to their next quarterback.

Glennon’s signing in no way precludes the Bears from drafting a quarterback. It would, unsurprisingly, signal the end of the Jay Cutler era in Chicago.

Adam L. Jahns: Age matters. Glennon is four years younger than Hoyer. The Bears aren’t paying for who Glennon currently is (the Bucs’ backup) but who he could potentially be down the road. The Bears signed Hoyer to a one-year, $2 million deal last year. According to ESPN, Hoyer has a agreed to a two-year deal for the 49ers that’s worth $12 million and has the potential to reach $18 million.

March 6

The move: The Bears re-signed tight end Daniel Brown to a one-year deal.

Patrick Finley: Claimed off waivers from the Ravens midseason, Brown provided a rare reason to watch the Bears as they slogged to the end of the season. The converted receiver had 16 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown for the Bears, who desperately need tight ends to play behind Zach Miller. While they’re desperate for a solid blocker, Brown is made in the Miller mold — speedy and with a good nose for getting open.

The move: The Bears tendered receiver Josh Bellamy, an exclusive rights free agent, a contract

Patrick Finley: Bellamy is probably the Bears’ best special teams player. Keeping him seemed like a no-brainer, even after his drops at receiver seemed to expose him as mostly a specialist. Bellamy had a career-high 282 receiving yards last year, but did drop a game-winning touchdown in the end zone.

The move: The Bears tendered cornerback Bryce Callahan, an exclusive rights free agent, a contract.

Patrick Finley: Callahan, who started 10 games last season, might be the most athletic person in the Bears’ locker room. (Only 5-10, he might be the Bears’ best dunker.) While coaches like how he uses his athleticism when forced to play outside, Callahan will — in an ideal world — compete with Cre’Von LeBlanc for the slot corner spot.

March 4

The move: The Bears re-signed quarterback Connor Shaw, an exclusive rights free agent.

Patrick Finley: Claimed off waivers in early July, Shaw outperformed the Bears’ other quarterbacks during training camp before being sent to the hospital with a gruesome broken left leg in the third preseason game. He rehabbed at Halas Hall all year and figures to fight for the third quarterback job.

The move: The Bears re-signed exclusive rights free agent snapper Patrick Scales.

Adam L. Jahns: Replacing long-time long snapper Patrick Mannelly hasn’t been easy since he retired in 2014. But Scales has settled in after initially joining the team in 2015. He was cut at the end of the preseason last year in favor of Aaron Brewer, but he was re-signed days later.