Who is This Franchise, and What Have You Done With the Real Bears?

By Brady Stiff

The free agency period in the NFL began last night at 11:01 Central Time.  For the Bears, it started out as many expected, with the Bears saying no Antrell Rolle’s price tag right away.

The Bears are already major players.

That’s right, that’s exactly what I said.  No need to restart your computer, get your eyes checked, or pinch yourself to wake up.

The Chicago Bears are major players in free agency.

As I was driving into work this morning, the Bears reportedly were close to signing TE Brandon Manumaleuna.  By the time I got to my computer, the Chicago Tribune was reporting that Manumaleuna agreed to a five year deal with the Bears.  He was in St. Louis with Mike Martz and Lovie Smith, so he’ll easily feel at home here in Chicago.  He’s known as more of a blocking tight end, something the Bears were lacking in Greg Olsen.

Does that mean Olsen is as good as gone?  Not necessarily, but it should light a fire under him.  Hopefully the trade rumors swirling around him and the acquisition of Manumaleuna make him play better.

Julius Peppers would be a huge acquisition for Jerry Angelo and the Bears

The other interesting nugget I heard on the radio this morning was that Julius Peppers would be visiting Halas Hall today, and some are reporting that he could sign today.

What?  Peppers wants to come here?  Now?

The Bears are applying the full court press too, sending Lovie down to Charlotte to fly back to Chicago with Peppers and his agent.  As David Haugh points out, that may simply be to ensure that Peppers’ plane actually gets to Chicago, and not Washington, DC.  It seems that while Peppers will certainly command a large sum of money ($15 million/year?), the Bears seem willing to put up the cash.  In an uncapped year, it appears the Bears might finally be doing what’s necessary to win now.

A third guy will be visiting the Bears in Lake Forest today, and it’s someone I did not expect the Bears to go after.  Chester Taylor, Adrian Peterson’s former backup in Minnesota is a guy who could probably be the starter on a lot of teams.  While the Bears have their starting running back in place, the dropoff from first to second on the depth chart is monstrous.  Matt Forte didn’t have that great a season last year, so could this signal an open competition for the starting job?

Personally, I think it’s a good thing if they bring him in.  Maybe not the best thing, but a good thing.  Taylor could command about $8 million, which is about what Rolle was going to ask for, maybe a little less.  I would argue that safety is a more pressing need than running back for the Bears right now.  Unless the Bears have their eye on someone else, I would have liked to see them sign Rolle with that money.

That being said, signing Chester Taylor wouldn’t be a bad thing.  His rushing stats  are OK, but it’s his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield that Mike Martz would ogle over.  He averaged almost nine yards per catch last season, up about a yard from his career average.  Plus, with the two-back system becoming the norm in the NFL, a veteran like Chester Taylor would surely help.

As of 10:30 this morning, David Kaplan is tweeting that the Bears are confident they will sign Peppers today, but if a deal can’t be reached, the Eagles and the Patriots are expected to get in the mix.  His sources tell him, though, that a deal to make him a Bear will get done today.

To me, this is totally uncharacteristic of the Bears.  The biggest splash they made in a long time was last year’s trade for Jay Cutler, and before that, I can’t even think of a big splash they made.  Adewale Ogunleye in 2004?  That was a trade too.  Orlando Pace was a huge bust, and Frank Omiyale’s worth is yet to be proven.  I guess you could make the argument that the Bears’ biggest free agent acquisition in the last several years has been….Lovie Smith?

I hope these deals get done and the Bears don’t lose out on these excellent players.  The fact that they’re even in the running, and in some cases thought to be the favorites, tells me something about the front office.  They know they need to win now, and they have that opportunity with an uncapped season.  I think it’s somewhat of a PR move too.  The Bears know they let their fans down, and now they’re trying to make sure that the fans come back.

If they get these deals done, I don’t think they’ll have a problem getting the fans back.


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