For the Chicago Bears, the NFL Draft started midnight EST Thursday. Yesterday, I called my friends who are Bears fans – like myself – to remind them of that fact.
Without a first or second round pick because of the Jay Cutler and Gaines Adams (RIP) trades, the Bears really only had one viable way to fill their glaring holes: free agency.
And with free agency barely 15 hours old, the Bears have done something they don’t usually do – break the bank.
Now, that doesn’t mean the Bears have been cheap. They just reward their own players with big deals rather than overpay for other team’s free agents.
I can remember maybe a few times in Bears history where they’ve gone out and splashed some cash around. The Bryan Cox deal in 1996 comes to mind. That really didn’t work out too well. Cox spent just two seasons in Chicago. Then there was the failed Kordell Stewart Experiment in 2003.
But bringing in Julius Peppers, Chester Taylor and a 300-pound tight end with a name no one can pronounce definitely is a break from the McCaskey Family philosophy. The Bears are throwing cash around like Pacman Jones at Cheetahs.
Perhaps Virginia McCaskey, George Halas’ daughter, feels that now finally with a quarterback in place, the team should have no excuses for failure. So she’s opening up the vault and spending her son’s inheritance, which no Bears fan is against. One, it means the team is trying to get better, and two, it means Michael McCaskey is probably a little annoyed. Time to get a part-time job, Mikey.
(For those who don’t know, Bears fans loathe Mike McCaskey. Mike was team president from 1983 to 1999, but was as incompetent a football man as they come.)
Peppers is the prize here, and he’ll do more than just generate a pass rush that saw just 24 sacks from the defensive line. Peppers’ presence alone will make the secondary better, which admittedly isn’t saying much because it can’t get much worse.
Taylor is the perfect compliment running back. We’ve seen that over the past few years in Minnesota while he spelled Adrian Peterson. Last year showed the Bears that Matt Forte needs help and the likes of Garrett Wolfe, the Original Adrian Peterson and Khalil Bell weren’t up to the task. Plus, Taylor is a versatile back who can catch passes out of the backfield, something vital in a Mike Martz offense.
Chicago still has holes in the secondary and offensive line and might still have some money to spend without having to allocate funds to a first or second round draft pick. There’s been talk the Bears will slang Greg Olsen, which initially I was against. But after some further thought, I’m starting to come around. It’s been well-documented that Mike Martz wants his tight ends to block, not run routes. Well, Olsen can’t block. That’s why the Bears made Brandon Manumaneula their first free agent acquisition Friday. A tight end has never caught more than 38 passes in a Martz offense. Vernon Davis is a perfect example of that. Martz kept him into block most of 2008 and it infuriated VD. With Martz gone, Davis finally reached the potential his freakish athletic abilities lends itself to.
There are rumors that Olsen and Cutler, once tight buddies, had a falling out over the hiring of Martz. Martz had to travel to Nashville to woo Cutler in order for the franchise quarterback to sign off on his hiring. However, prior to the meeting, it’s said that both Olsen and Cutler had agreed that Martz wasn’t the best guy for the job. Well, Cutler went ahead and told Bears brass that after the dinner meeting with Martz, that he was OK with the hire. So Olsen felt a little betrayed, didn’t talk to Cutler for a while and wants out. That’s understandable. So trading him seems like the best solution. And it’s not as if Olsen has performed up to his draft slot (late first round). OK, last year was nice with 60 catches and eight TDs, but there are more glaring needs on the Bears roster and they’re confident in the young receiving corps, even though most people believe it’s the weakest group in the NFL. It’s not. There’s just no standout stud like an Anquan Boldin or Brandon Marshall.
Devin Hester (57 catches, 757 yards), Johnny Knox (45 catches, 527 yards), Earl Bennett (54 catches, 717 yards), Devin Aromashadu (24 catches, 298 yards in six games) and last year’s third round draft pick Juaquin Iglesias all should benefit from Martz’s system and a second year building a rapport with Cutler.
Trading Olsen actually makes more sense than keeping him. And if you can get a team like New England, who is losing Ben Watson, to part with one of its three second round picks, then go right ahead. Slang him.
Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo know they need to win now. And in order to do so, they had to spend big. The word “desperate” has been thrown around all week when analysts describe the Bears’ plight. And they’re right. Smith and Angelo are desperate to keep their jobs. Who isn’t?
Friday’s signings guarantee nothing. But it shows fans and the rest of the team, that 7-9 and missing the playoffs is unacceptable.
Spending is definitely a change in philosophy. As a Bears fan, lets hope it changes the team’s fortunes as well.