Bears free agents: Who will be back?
July, 20, 2011
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com
AP Photo/David ZalubowskiAnthony Adams hopes he will be a priority for the Bears once the lockout ends.Chicago Bears free agent defensive tackle Anthony Adams carefully dissected comments this spring from interviews and award-presentation speeches at Halas Hall.
Somewhere in there he’s put together enough context clues from the team’s brass to string together the words: We want you back.
Perhaps he’ll finally hear that from the club in the coming days, with teams likely getting back to the business of free agency now that the lockout is close to coming to a conclusion.
“At both of the award ceremonies, they spoke very highly of me, and I kind of got a sense that they do want me back from the Ed Block courage award banquet and the Brian Piccolo award ceremony,” Adams said. “From both coach [Lovie] Smith and [defensive line] coach [Rod] Marinelli’s speeches, they want to have me back. I’ve just got to hurry up and wait.”
With new rules soon to be in place, it shouldn’t take long. The league is expected to assign a designated period of three days to sign undrafted rookies and their own free agents before full-blown free agency kicks off around the NFL.
An eight-year veteran, Adams falls into a vital group of Bears free agents -- which includes center Olin Kreutz -- the team will try to re-sign for the upcoming season during what’s sure to be a chaotic time for general manager Jerry Angelo, director of player personnel Tim Ruskell, and contract negotiator Cliff Stein.
Adams hopes (and likely will be) one of the top priorities among that group.
“I love it here, man. I love the crowd, the team, the coaches,” Adams said. “There are really no big egos on this team. We’ve got some pretty heavy hitters on this team, who believe in that team-first concept. That’s really great for someone like me.”
Here’s a look at the players from the 2010 roster that the Bears will be considering during the exclusive three-day window to bring back their own free agents:
DT Anthony AdamsPriority level: High
Unheralded because he doesn’t post gaudy numbers (36 tackles, two sacks) from his nose tackle spot, Adams is one of the key elements to the team’s stingy run defense. His preference is to remain a Bear, but the club won’t be able to bring him back if it extends the run-of-the-mill three-year, $6 million deal it offered several players before the end of last season.
Aromashodu flashed early last season, but quickly fell out of favor with offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Aromashodu doesn’t want to return to Chicago. The team likely feels the same.
Bullocks was solid on special teams last season, but needs to make a more meaningful contribution on defense to stick. If he re-signs, Bullocks will have a tough time making the team.
Clark shined at training camp last year, and is arguably the club’s most athletic player at tight end. But for some reason Clark never received a legitimate shot to contribute on offense. With time dwindling on his 12-year career, Clark will explore opportunities elsewhere.
QB Todd CollinsPriority level: Low
His struggles when called upon, Caleb Hanie’s emergence in the NFC Championship game and the team’s decision to draft Nathan Enderle likely have signaled Collins’ exit from Chicago. There’s still a slight chance for a return, however.
Davis continues to be a standout performer on special teams, but might warrant a more extensive look at receiver after a strong outing in the regular-season finale. Davis likely won’t be highly coveted in free agency, thus increasing the prospects for a return to the Bears.
CB Corey GrahamPriority level: High
Graham cranked out what probably should have been a Pro Bowl season on special teams (he led the league in special-teams stops) in 2010. The team’s problem, however, is Graham probably feels typecast as a special teams only player with no shot at receiving a real opportunity to contribute on defense. That might lead to Graham looking elsewhere.
LB Brian IwuhPriority level: High
Iwuh tied for second on the team in special-teams tackles (18) last season, and showed in his only start (team-high 12 tackles with 10 solo against the Seahawks on Oct. 17) that he’s capable of potentially cracking the starting lineup full time. The team offered a multi-year extension at the end of last season, and if the deal is still on the table during the three-day negotiating period, he’ll sign it.
C Olin KreutzPriority level: High
Not as dominant a player as he used to be, Kreutz still ranks favorably among other players around the league at his position. Fortunately for the team, the NFL instituted the three-day negotiating window. Otherwise, there’s a good chance the Bears would have competition for his services.
The priority level should be high here, but team sources indicate the club has no plan to offer more than the three-year, $6 million deal it extended prior to the end of last season. Manning missed just three tackles all last year, finally coming into his own at the safety position. If the Bears won’t budge on the financial package, he’ll go elsewhere. Several teams are interested.
Maynard seems to have fallen out of favor with some in the organization after producing somewhat of a down year in 2010. Kicker Robbie Gould has shown strong support for the punter, but it might not be enough.
LB Nick RoachPriority level: High
Injuries slowed Roach last season, but he should be in contention for the starting strong-side linebacker position in 2011. Roach wants to re-sign with the Bears, but the club could lose him if it can’t offer a strong deal during the exclusive period. Multiple teams are interested.
Because of his injury history, Tinoisamoa said the Bears will “try to find a way to devalue” him. When healthy, Tinoisamoa is a strong contributor. But the Bears probably won’t offer much more than a veteran minimum contract.
LB Rod WilsonPriority level: Low
Considered more of a special-teams player and reserve linebacker, Wilson could be brought back for depth reasons. But at this point, a return to Chicago seems unlikely.
Wolfe will only fall further down the depth chart with Harvey Unga returning from spending last season on the injured reserve. With the team already stacked at running back, Wolfe’s special-teams prowess still might not be enough to warrant a roster spot.
Note: QB Caleb Hanie is a restricted free agent, and in March received a low tender from the Bears. Running back Kahlil Bell is an exclusive-rights free agent.