The Bears lost out to the Seattle Seahawks in the matter of defensive end Michael Bennett, who is staying with his Super Bowl mates. They may yet land Michael Johnson. Maybe not.
And if they don’t outbid the rest of the NFL for someone, it does not follow that Phil Emery’s free agency strategy was a succession of misses.
Indeed, if Bennett/Johnson were Plan A, “Plan B” may in fact be the better of the two, and Emery has aggressively acted on the latter strategy while pursuing the former at the same time.
Plan A consists of moves like signing Julius Peppers, trading for Brandon Marshall or signing a starting left tackle (Jermon Bushrod) or tight end (Martellus Bennett).
Plan B typically is broader, building the rest of the car around what is hoped to be a monster motor to make the whole thing go. In an extremely active pre-free agency run, Emery has re-signed 12 of the Bears’ own, not including middle linebacker D.J. Williams, whom Emery had praise for during the NFL Scouting Combine and who the Chicago Tribune noted on Monday was approaching a new deal.
The 2013 defense collapsed because of its inability to come close to stopping the run. The NFL may be a pass-first league but Bears opponents simply didn’t have to because running was easier and less risk.
Without signing Williams, Jeremiah Ratliff, Nick Collins and perhaps ultimately Corey Wootton, whoever the Bears obtain as an edge rusher may not have much chance for impact if the rest of the defense again hemorrhages rushing yards.
Emery was very clear about the need for a better pass rush. That was Plan A in the person of Bennett, even if he was always a longshot.
The overarching issue for the Bears: Is there enough of a “guarantee” to lavish money on a current free agent, like Johnson? Or is the better strategy to target a pass rusher at No. 14 in the draft, where the price will be lower?
And build up the supporting cast in the meantime. Regardless of the outcome in free agency, the Bears have already addressed a “Plan B” with positive results on players of their own that they targeted and need regardless of what transpires with an edge rusher.