NFL free agents can not sign with a new team until Tuesday afternoon, however beginning on Saturday, teams are allowed to meet with free agents and exchange contract offers with agents.
The Chicago Bears are expected to have an immediate impact in free agency. The Bears enter the NFL free agency period with needs at the defensive tackle, defensive end, cornerback and safety positions. Needless to say the Bears can ill-afford to be patient as general manager Phil Emery needs to implement the same quick-strike strategy that he had last off-season.
When the embargo is lifted on Saturday, here are the free agents that the Bears likely will have a conversation with.
- Henry Melton-The Bears are determined to let Melton test the market before trying to re-sign the defensive tackle. Melton missed most of the 2013 season after suffering a torn ACL in September. Melton has been connected to the Dallas Cowboys recently. If the Bears are able to re-sign Melton, then the team should be able to wait until the draft to further address the defensive tackle position.
- Michael Bennett- Bennett, the brother of Bears tight-end Martellus Bennett, earned a nice reputation for himself during the Seattle Seahawks playoff run to the Super Bowl. Bennett was constantly getting into the backfield for the Seahawks defense and disrupting the rhythm of the opposing quarterback. Bennett has previously said that he is intent on staying in Seattle, though, his stance may have soften as of late. Bennett record 8.5 sacks last season with the Seahawks.
- Michael Johnson- Johnson has the same makeup of the Bears prized signing from the 2011 free agency period, Julius Peppers. The 27-year old Johnson appears to be on the verge of breaking out as he compiled 56 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season with the Cincinnati Bengals. In 2011, Johnson recorded 11.5 sacks for the Bengals.
- Lamarr Houston-Like Johnson, Houston appears to be on the cusp of being one of the next top-tier defensive ends in the NFL. With the Oakland Raiders last season, Houston tallied 69 tackles to go along with 6 sacks. Bennett and Johnson likely will be the Bears top two targets at the defensive end position, though, Houston may not be a bad alternative.
- Charles Tillman-The Bears have been mum on whether or not Tillman will be brought back for the 2014 season. The latest indication is that the Bears will let Tillman walk in free agency. If that is true, the Bears will need to find a cornerback to pair with pro-bowl corner Tim Jennings.
- Brandon Browner- The 29-year old Browner is may be an ideal buy-low candidate for the Bears. Browner was a part of the Seahawks defense last season before being suspended for the team’s final five games including the playoffs. Browner is facing a four-game suspension to begin the 2014 season, though, the former Seahawks corner is an ideal candidate for a Bears defense that is looking for stronger defensive backs.
- Chris Cook- There appears to be distance growing between Cook and the Minnesota Vikings and the distance may lead to Cook joining the Bears. Cook has under-performed for a player that was taken in the second round of the draft, but he possesses the speed and physical play that may interest Emery.
- Jairus Byrd- The pro-bowl safety from Buffalo is set to test free agency and may be the prize of the market. The Bears could stand to improve at both safety positions and Byrd would certainly be an improvement. Byrd recorded 48 tackles with the Bills last season to go along with 4 interceptions.
- T.J. Ward- Byrd or Ward may be the word for the Bears this off-season. Like Byrd, Ward will be a highly coveted free agent. Ward recorded 112 tackles with the Cleveland Browns last season and would be a significant boost to the Bears secondary play.
- Louis Delmas- Delmas has always been a promising safety with the Detroit Lions though injuries have plagued his career. The 27-year old Delmas recorded 64 tackles last season with the Lions to go along with 3 interceptions while playing in all 16 games.
- Malcolm Jenkins- The Bears are looking for their secondary in 2014 to mirror the physical play of the Seahawks’ and New Orleans Saints’ secondaries. Therefore, it would stand to reason that the Bears would have interest in Jenkins. Jenkins recorded 68 tackles with the Saints last season to go along with 2 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions.
What about the offense? Come back on Saturday morning to look at the Bears free agency primer with a focus on the offensive side of the ball.