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’ Patrick Finley offers a look at what free agency means to Bears:
1. Would you sign WR Alshon Jeffery to a long-term deal?
Of course. No sane person could argue otherwise. Jeffery is a star player in his prime — and the Bears only have one other of those, Kyle Long.
The 26-year-old will cost them, for sure: think $14 million annually for five years — roughly the cost of the one-year franchise tender he signed Tuesday — with about half that total guaranteed. With salary cap space galore, the Bears could front-load a deal that gives them more wiggle room as the team, in theory, improves.
2. Would you keep TE Martellus Bennett?
Yes, but I don’t have to live with him. The Bears won’t find a more talented player to take his place in free agency or via the draft.
Bennett has rubbed his new bosses the wrong way for about a year now. With only one year left on his contract, there’s no reason to think that will change.
3. The Bears’ greatest area of need is …
Two starting inside linebackers. The Bears are desperate for stability in the middle. Last year, they started Shea McClellin and (count ’em!) four undrafted free agents at the position. McClellin is a free agent, while Christian Jones, John Timu, Jonathan Anderson and LaRoy Reynolds are better suited to backup and special teams roles.
4. An overrated area of concern is:
Quarterback — at least in free agency. No one would blame the Bears for signing a journeyman backup as Jay Cutler insurance. The real solution, though, can only come via the draft. And that timetable makes sense: pick someone in Round 2 or later next month and let them sit for two years behind Cutler.
5. The Bears will succeed in free agency if:
They resist the urge to overspend. Paying two or three players in the free agent class’ second tier, particularly on defense, would allow GM Ryan Pace to draft the best available player next month — not desperately fill a hole.
6. The Bears will fail in free agency if:
Their defense looks similar two weeks from now. Vic Fangio worked miracles last season but kept his defense vanilla, not wanting to put pressure on a unit that was short of explosive talent. It would be fun to see what the coordinator could do with more playmakers.
7. I would sign:
Jaye Howard. The Chiefs’ 6-3, 301-pound end turned 27 in December and has light mileage; he’s played more than 53 snaps in a season only twice.
Let someone else — the Jaguars — overpay the Broncos’ Malik Jackson.
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley