5 Chicago Bears Who Must Be Kicked To the Curb Before Free Agency
5 Bears Who Must Be Cut Before Free Agency
The Chicago Bears enter free agency at just $5 million under the salary cap and the team will need to free up additional cap room in order to fix the worst defense in the NFL last year. The Bears can start creating cap room by extending Brandon Marshall and converting some of Jay Cutler's salary into a singing bonus. However, these moves alone will not be enough to fix the glaring holes the Bears have on defense. Starting linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson are coming off one year deals and the Bears' defensive line must be beefed up. The Bears will also need help in the secondary, as Charles Tillman enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, in addition to terrible safety play in 2013.
With Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton coming off a season under the franchise tag, the Bears will need to decide if he is worth the big money he’ll command on the open market. It is unlikely that Melton will take a discount to stay in Chicago, but if his market fails to develop after missing the season with a torn ACL, the Bears may still be able to fit him in under the cap if they get creative. If not, they’ll need to find a new three-technique tackle.
The Bears could also choose to pursue one of the three elite safeties that will be available: T.J. Ward, Jairus Byrd and Donte Whitner. Ward would fit the Bears the best, as he is excellent against the run but can also hold his own in coverage. Whitner is the best in coverage of the three, while Byrd is above average against the run and the pass. If the price tag for one of these safeties falls, the Bears could turn their biggest weaknesses on defense into a strength.
In order for any of these moves to happen, the Bears will have to part ways with more than a few players. Some cuts will be welcomed with open arms while others may hurt for some fans. In the end, it’s all part of the business of the NFL, the only major professional sport that does not guarantee contracts. The following players are five Chicago Bears who must be kicked to the curb before free agency.
5. Michael Bush
After being featured in a two-back role with Matt Forte in 2012, Michael Bush couldn’t even crack sidekick status in 2013. Matt Forte will continue to be the featured back, as he should, and the Bears can look to draft a running back who can bring a new element to the offense. Counting at $3.85 million against the cap, Michael Bush will be plodding along for a team other than the Bears in 2014.
4. Earl Bennett
Earl Bennett is a reliable wide receiver who has a connection with Jay Cutler after playing together at Vanderbilt. Earl goes into traffic and catches mostly every ball thrown his way. I love Earl Bennett as a player. So why does he need to go? The Bears just didn't use him very much last year. Without excellent size or speed, Bennett is lost in the shuffle of the new Bears offense. With the emergence of Alshon Jeffrey, and the increased usage of Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett in the passing game, Earl only caught an average of two passes per game in 2013. Unless the Bears find more ways to get Earl Bennett the ball, he simply is not worth $2.45 million against the cap.
3. Adam Podlesh
There’s not a whole lot to say about a punter. The good ones stick around for a while and it’s pretty easy to spot the bad ones. Adam Podlesh is bad. In fact, he ranked dead last among 41 punters in the league last year according to advanced metrics from Pro Football Focus. Returning special teams to a strength will be a priority for the Bears this offseason and releasing Adam Podlesh is the first step.
2. Julius Peppers
In an ideal world the Bears keep Julius Peppers, but with an $18 million salary cap hit, that simply doesn’t make financial sense. The Bears can save roughly $13 million if Peppers is designated as a June 1 cut, and in reality Peppers is not even worth half that much money. Julius Peppers simply had a bad season in 2013 by his standards and a below average season by NFL standards. At 34 years old, Peppers isn’t suddenly going to return to the dominant force the Bears signed in 2010. Peppers is a nice player to have on your team—at the veteran minimum salary.
1. Chris Conte
Parties will be thrown throughout Chicago in celebration of this inevitable cut. The Bears will save a little over $1 million by cutting Conte a year before his contract is up, and there should be no hesitation by GM Phil Emery when it comes to this move. Words can’t describe how bad Chris Conte was at safety for the Bears in 2013. Only those who witnessed his ineptitude week after week can fully grasp just how bad Chris Conte is as a safety.
Chris Conte played cornerback at California and the Jerry Angelo/Lovie Smith regime thought he would make a good safety. At 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds, Conte has the size of a safety, and during the 2012 season he did a decent job of pretending to be a safety on a strong Bears defense. However, when faced with actually tackling players in the open field, covering receivers or knowing what coverage the Bears were in, Conte failed miserably game after game in 2013. When this move goes down, Mayor Rahm Emanuel may declare a holiday in honor of Chris Conte Cut Day.