Depending on where the salary cap stands, the Chicago Bears could have upwards of $26 million in cap space next year for NFL free agency. Here are some prominent names that could be available to help them.
Jermaine Gresham – TE – Current Team: Cincinnati Bengals
Finding a second tight end to pair with Martellus Bennett has been a struggle for the Bears. Zach Miller was hurt before he ever had a chance to show what he could do and Dante Rosario will never be more than a decent reserve. Getting Jermaine Gresham would make a far bigger difference. His contract is expiring with the Cincinnati Bengals and the presence of promising second-year tight end Tyler Eifert could mean he gets a chance to test the market. His value to the Bears would not just be as a pretty good receiver but, like Bennett, he is also a capable blocker.
Mike Iupati – OG – Current Team: San Francisco 49ers
Speaking of blocking, there is nothing wrong really with the Bears offensive line. All five starters are back from a unit that ranked among the best in pass protection last season. However, there is no harm in trying to improve in other area. One big one is power. Chicago has really struggled to drive defenders off the ball in the running game, which is why they don’t have great numbers in short yardage and at the goal line. Signing All-Pro guard Mike Iupati would be an instant solution. He’s 27-years old and a physical load to handle. The San Francisco 49ers will certainly do whatever possible to keep him, but it’s important to note the team is going to run into serious salary cap obstacles in 2015.
Nick Fairley – DT – Current Team: Detroit Lions
Numerous football fans are already proclaiming Nick Fairley a lost cause. After struggling with substance abuse problems early in his career, the big defensive tackle is apparently now battling an issue with his weight. These headaches may combine to force the Detroit Lions to let him go to free agency. All that being said, he’s still worth signing. The fact is Fairley is a force in the middle, especially against the run. He finished 2013 with six sacks as well. For Chicago, Jeremiah Ratliff is 34-years old and Stephen Paea doesn’t affect games like Fairley can. If the price isn’t outrageous, the Bears should make that call.
Jerrell Freeman – ILB – Current Team: Indianapolis Colts
D.J. Williams and Jon Bostic have looked underwhelming to say the least at middle linebacker this preseason. That doesn’t mean the same will be true for the rest of the year but it just continues to raise the concern that the Bears remain unsettled at the position. For what he may lack in size, the 28-year old is a playmaker for Indianapolis. Last season he finished with 126 tackles, 5.5 sacks, two interceptions and six forced fumbles. The guy is always around the football and that is something that can’t be said for who the Bears have now. If the Colts let him test the market, that phone number needs dial.
Devin McCourty – FS – Current Team: New England Patriots
Is Chris Conte the future at free safety? Right now the majority of Chicago Bears fandom would cry laughing at that question. What is clear is 2014 will provide a final answer. Provided it turns out as expected, NFL free agency may yield help. Devin McCourty has really come into his own since the New England Patriots shifted him to free safety. He is rarely out of position and has cornerback speed so he can get to the football fast. The stats aren’t there all the time, but his value is obvious on tape.
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