Go ahead and take another name off the list of potential impact free agents the Bears could have targeted to fill one of their several needs.
St. Louis announced it has placed the franchise tag on safety Oshiomogho (O.J.) Atogwe, meaning he’s out of the picture. Atogwe was considered the top safety heading to the free-agent market but there are some scouts who don’t believe he’s in an elite category.
Bears running back Matt Forte blew past him on a long run at St. Louis during the regular season and considering the premium teams pay in free agency (see the $33 million, six-year deal Madieu Williams got in Minnesota last year or the $39 million, six-year deal Gibril Wilson got in Oakland for examples), missing on Atogwe might not be the worst thing that happens to the Bears in free agency. Yes, he’d be an instant upgrade over anything the team has but at what cost?
That leaves Tampa Bay’s Jermaine Phillips as one possible target but he’s played strong safety for the Bucs and the Bears have a greater need at free safety. The Bucs made it official and will use their franchise tag on wide receiver Antonio Bryant. Re-signing Phillips is one of the priorities for them in the next week but it might not get done.
The deadline for franchise tags is 3 p.m. Thursday. Keep an eye on Julius Peppers in Carolina. Stay tuned.