A week after free agency began, the Bears continued reshaping their roster, making a noteworthy offensive subtraction to continue adding competition on the defensive side.
The progress made by last year’s seventh-round draft pick, Marquess Wilson, during offseason workouts with Brandon Marshall and others, had made wide receiver a position of strength. From there, Phil Emery created space for his salary cap-strapped club. You can’t blame Earl Bennett for turning down the request to cut his salary for a second straight year, but Wilson’s development, and last week’s addition of Domenik Hixon, appeared to be pushing Bennett further down the depth chart. Paying him nearly $2.5 million was questionable, at best.
That helped open more spending room after Israel Idonije returned earlier in the day, and Craig Steltz was brought back for safety depth and special teams duty with ex-Cowboy Danny McCray. While the latter two join new Bears Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings from last week in providing competition in the last line of defense (along with Chris Conte), those moves, and the ones along the defensive line, still don’t mean Emery’s done at those positions. As a matter of fact, the roles and impact these players have had almost scream that the general manager will be targeting difference-making types during the draft. Throw in cornerback and speed-rushing defensive end, and with each passing signing, Emery’s “M.O.” (as John Mullin recently wrote) on how he’ll utilize those selections appears clearer by the day.
Some fans may have preferred Emery spend the money used for defensive depth to instead pay veterans of known commodity (be it Jared Allen, Henry Melton, or one of the high-priced “Day One” free agent safeties). But Emery has been consistent about building depth and competition in efforts to improve on that side of the ball, along with a heavier reliance upon the defensive staff coaching up this reshaped group in a more diverse system. As he’s filled out his roster with veterans (dating back to the re-signings the final week of December), there may be another cost-efficient veteran or two on the way. But now it’s up to finding immediate contributors (and eventual long-term starters) from what will be his third, and most important, draft class.