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.
The Sun-Times’ Mark Potash offers a look at what free agency means to Bears:
1. Would you sign WR Alshon Jeffery to a long-term deal?
Yes, but I wouldn’t break the bank just yet, which is why it’s unlikely that the Bears will sign Jeffery to a long-term deal before July 15. They’re not ready to pay him top-of-the-market money until he proves he can stay healthy again. And the agent is unlikely to accept a second-tier deal because when Jeffery is healthy he’s one of the best receivers in football. It’s a prove-it year.
2. Would you keep TE Martellus Bennett?
Yes, because the Bears won’t find a better all-around tight end. Bennett is a unique personality with a huge ego, but he’s not unmanageable. Keeping a guy like Bennett on board is supposed to be one of John Fox’s strengths. If he and Ryan Pace handle it right, they’ll have a highly motivated, talented player in the final year of his contract.
3. The Bears’ greatest area of need is …
Linebackers with speed. Linebackers with speed. Linebackers with speed.
4. An overrated area of concern is:
The secondary. No doubt the Bears could use some help there. But they have enough talent in their secondary that if they shore up their pass rush and linebacker corps, players like Kyle Fuller and Adrian Amos will become playmakers.
5. The Bears will succeed in free agency if:
If they sign a defensive player who not only fills a hole but makes the players around them better. Can’t say that Pernell McPhee, even at his best last season, did that. And Ryan Pace has to find some bargains. The Bears have money to burn, but so do a lot of other NFL teams.
6. The Bears will fail in free agency if:
If they get caught up in a spending frenzy and overpay for an unproductive player. There doesn’t appear to be a Reggie White game-changer in free agency this year. But there’s a lot of money out there, which is a recipe for disaster in free agency in the NFL — where player movement often is unfulfilling for both sides. No matter what happens here, it’s still all about the draft for Ryan Pace and his personnel staff.
7. I would sign:
Being on the outside looking in, my priorities — where I’d be willing to overpay a little — would be linebacker Danny Trevathan and guard Alex Boone. Cost-efficiency targets would include cornerbacks Sean Smith and Tracy Porter, defensive end Robert Ayers, tight end Zach Miller and safety George Iloka.
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash