NFL teams are lining up to pay up. The new league year opens Wednesday at 3 p.m., and plenty of free-agent deals already were reached Tuesday — the result of the NFL’s negotiation window.
Second-year general manager Ryan Pace said weeks ago that his team will be “mindful,” “strategic” and “calculated” when it comes to approaching the “dangerous water” that is free agency.
Signing Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan appears to be atop the Bears’ list, given the right price and term. The Bears have interest in Patriots defensive end Akiem Hicks, too. A new, less mercurial tight end? A veteran tackle? Plenty is possible.
1. Would you sign WR Alshon Jeffery to a long-term deal?
Absolutely. Jeffery officially signed his franchise-tag tender, which is worth $14.6 million, on Tuesday. Jeffery is now required to attend mandatory team training or risk being fined. The Bears have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal, and both sides want that to happen. Jeffery’s talent makes him a keeper. Concerns about his character and durability are overblown.
2. Would you keep TE Martellus Bennett?
Bennett’s issues aren’t on the same level as what transpired with receiver Brandon Marshall, but it’s still time to move on. Replacing Bennett as a player won’t be simple – he’s still a very good player — but saying farewell is what’s best right now. The Bears highly value the chemistry and culture they’re building under coach John Fox. After becoming a problem on multiple occasions over the last two years, it’s apparent that Bennett doesn’t fit.
3. The Bears’ greatest area of need is:
Inside linebacker. It’s no secret that the Bears are eyeing Trevathan, a fast tackling machine for the Broncos. If he’s signed, the Bears defense immediately improves. Trevathan turns 26 later this month.
4. An overrated area of concern is:
Adding a pass rusher. OK, it’s still a concern. Adding a young pass rusher – the draft anyone? – will help any team. But Pernell McPhee, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young combined for 20 ½ sacks last season and could be even more productive next year. Houston and Young won’t be coming off serious injuries. McPhee, meanwhile, was slowed by a nagging knee ailment last season, but he underwent minor arthroscopic surgery this offseason.
5. The Bears will succeed in free agency if:
Pace stays true to his word and doesn’t go crazy with the Bears’ checkbook. The Bears had interest in Broncos defensive end Malik Jackson, but he agreed to a six-year deal worth a reported $90 million, including $42 million guaranteed, with the Jaguars. He’s a good player, but that’s crazy money for a player who was a full-time starter for only one season. The Bears will be built through the draft and not through reckless spending.
6. The Bears will fail in free agency if:
They don’t sign a tight end. Replacing Bennett will require action in free agency and the draft. Re-signing Zach Miller at the right price is a good starting point, but others will be needed. They can’t walk away empty-handed and be left scouring a lackluster draft class.
7. I would sign:
There are four positions that the Bears absolutely must address: inside linebacker, defensive end, tight end and offensive line. Signing Trevathan, Hicks, Miller and versatile guard Jeff Allen (Chiefs) would be ideal.
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