Last year the Bears went free agent shopping at the Lamborghini dealership and quickly signed Julius Peppers. Don’s Used Autos has been the shopping destination of choice for Jerry Angelo this year. The Bears opted to avoid big money spending on high-end free agents like Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes, Johnathan Jospeh and Cullen Jenkins. Well known but under achieving cast-offs Roy Williams, Marion Barber, Vernon Gholston and Amobi Okoye are among the new Bears for 2011. Before last season began, Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith’s long-term futures in Chicago were in question. After reaching the NFC Championship last season, both secured at least a few more years running the team. This security allows management to spend minimally and maintain Chicago’s mediocre status as a free agent destination.
The Cowboys released veterans Roy Williams and Marion Barber because they performed below expectations. After several above-average seasons in Detroit, wide receiver Williams failed to top 600 yards receiving in any of his last three years in the league. With a one-year contract, his signing isn’t much of a financial gamble. The issue is the Bears have again failed to provide Cutler with a true number-one receiver he can rely on. Williams may find success being reunited with Mike Martz, his offensive coordinator in Detroit, but he has to improve on his dropped passes problem. Williams will attempt to crack a wide out rotation of Johnny Knox, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and Sam Hurd (also a new addition). Chicago wasn’t in the market for a top running back like DeAngelo Williams. But the Marion Barber deal proves Angelo failed to solidify depth at the position with last year’s costly Chester Taylor signing. Barber averaged 930 yards/game from 2007 to 2009. Last season his attempts were cut by 50% and he was unable to top 375 yards rushing. Whether current backup Chester Taylor remains with the team, Barber will be used in short yardage and goal line situations as long as he stays healthy.
Former top-10 draft picks Vernon Gholston and Amobi Okoye were added to a defensive line in need of more pass rushing. Gholston had three sackless seasons primarily playing outside linebacker with the New York Jets. Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli will make him a defensive end and attempt to make him a contributor to a rotation that already has Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije and Corey Wootton. Unless he contributes with the early opportunities he’ll receive, Gholston will play out his one year contract and be out of the NFL. Amobi Okoye arrives on a short deal after being cut by the Houston Texans. With Tommie Harris gone and Marcus Harrison overweight (again) the Bears are in need of defensive tackle depth. Okoye hasn’t played up to his top-10 potential but should become an instant contributor in the tackle rotation.
General Manager Jerry Angelo has underwhelmed fans during an otherwise unprecedented free agent frenzy that officially began this past Friday. He has chosen to sign retreads and cast-offs to short-term, low-cost deals hoping his experienced coaching staff can bring out their potential. These signings, along with the additions of Sam Hurd (wide receiver) and Matt Spaeth (tight end) will represent the major outside additions to the current Bears roster. If they turn into lemons, as many predict, the Bears might be looking up at the Packers, Vikings and Lions in the NFC North this season.