I've been trying my best to keep up with the movement going on in the NFL since the lockout ended in the end of July. It's been a hectic week so far. The reduction in team salary caps and the addition of a salary floor have caused a lot of teams to have to clean house.
Considering how awesome the Julius Peppers acquisition was last year and how much extra cap room the Bears have in their coffers, I've been waiting to hear some awesome news about trades or free agent pickups by the Bears. But so far the news has been all disappointments.
Here's a recap of the big player movement in and out of Chicago so far:
- Chicago released veteran punter Brad Maynard and signed former Jaguar punter Adam Podlesh. I'm sad to see Maynard go. He was a pretty good punter. But whatever. A punter's a punter...
- Chicago signed former Steeler tight end Matt Spaeth, released tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, and traded away tight end Greg Olsen to the Panthers a third round draft pick. Big mistake. One of the Bears' key areas of concern is their receiving corp, and Olsen is one of the best receiving tight ends in the league, and has consistently been one of the Bears' most reliable pass-catchers. Mike Martz doesn't like tight ends, but that's no excuse for this debacle of a move. They could have just lined Olsen up as a receiver or had him catch passes out of the backfield as a fullback. Don't trade one of your most talented players away when you have over $30 million of cap room left! I'm also disappointed to see Manumaleuna go. I actually played on the football team with one of his brothers in high school, so it was kind of neat having Brandon on my favorite NFL team! Ah well.
- Chicago signed former Cowboy receiver Roy Williams. The Bears need a receiver, but this is not what I was looking for. Williams has "bust" written all over him. He did play for Mike Martz at some point, so maybe the two have a familiarity that will work out nicely, but I would much rather have seen the Bears pursue Santonio Holmes or Randy Moss.
- Chicago was unable to come to terms with veteran, all-pro center Olin Kreutz, and had to let him go. Kreutz has been one of the cornerstones of the Bears' offense for over a decade, and is the only experienced player the Bears had left on their offensive line. How could they have over $30 million in remaining cap room, and not have been able to afford to resign this guy?! God damnit! Offensive line was the, single biggest concern for the team going into this season, and they lost their veteran, all-pro center...
- Chicago signed running back Marion Barber. This is a weird and seemingly unnecessary move considering that Matt Forte and Chester Taylor are still around. Maybe the Bears are planning on sending Taylor out of town soon? I guess the Forte/Taylor duo was a disappointment last year, but that was mostly because of poor play by the offensive line rather than a lack of talent in the running back position. Without suring up the offensive line, signing an extra running back doesn't help at all.
What the hell are the Bears doing? Are they trying to set themselves up for failure next year?
They were in the top five or six teams in the league in terms of how much money they had available to spend on free agents this year, and so far have failed to address their two biggest areas of concern: wide receiver and offensive line.
I just don't see Roy Williams as being a worthwhile pick-up, especially at the cost of losing Greg Olsen. Again, why couldn't Martz have just found a way to fit Olsen in as a true receiver or pass-catching fullback?
Or why didn't they go after the Jaguars' Mike Sims-Walker or Santonio Holmes or find a way to make Steve Smith become a part of the Olsen deal?
And then they make no effort to sign any top offensive linemen and then manage to fumble away their only star on the offensive line? This is one of the youngest offensive lines in the league, and they weren't very good at all last year. With the labor dispute-shortened training camps, I can't imagine that any of these noobs has managed to improve significantly. And the brand-new rookie offensive lineman that they signed (as promising a young player as he seems to be) isn't going to be able to contribute much any time soon, considering the lack of training and practice.
I was also really hoping the Bears would make an effort to sign former Raider corner Naamdi Asomugha. The Bears have a great defense, but their pass coverage has a lot of holes in it. Asomugha could have cut off a whole half of the field, and allowed them to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks without having to drop as many players back into coverage.
So far, I can't help but see this year's free agent period as anything but a complete disaster for Chicago. Unless they've got some monster trade up their sleeve - like signing wide out Randy Moss, it just looks like all their off season changes have been steps backwards. They've so far completely failed to address their main needs. And in fact, they've further complicated those issues with the loss of Kreutz and Olsen. Even if they are planning on spending some of their $30 million, all the best talent has already been signed (except Moss), so all they're going to be left with is spending big bucks on only decent players.
Things are not looking good.