Some of the signings this offseason take short-term pressure off some areas of the Bears’ 2013 draft. Look at them from another angle, however, they have perhaps raised it ever so slightly.
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Easily overlooked in those goings-on over the past week – rupture of talks with Brian Urlacher, signings of linebackers James Anderson and D.J. Williams, defensive backs Zackary Bowman and Tom Zbikowski, defensive end Turk McBride – was a detail that is with potentially significant implications beyond 2013.
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It was there in every one of those signings: “…one-year deal…”
Including Anderson and Williams, the Bears currently have seven presumptive defensive starters on one-year contracts, signed only through the 2013 season:
Two linemen: tackle Henry Melton, end Corey Wootton;
Two linebackers: Anderson, Williams;
Both cornerbacks: Tim Jennings, Charles Tillman;
One safety: Major Wright.
Anderson and Williams agreed to one-year deals at the veteran minimum, meaning they are playing for their futures. If they are not answers at their positions, the Bears have one problem. If they play well enough to command pricier consideration next offseason, the Bears have another one.
More than defense
Defense is not the only area of short-term security. Bowman, Zbikowski and Blake Costanzo are three key special-teams figures all coming into free agency after this season.
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One quarterback: Jay Cutler
Two linemen: center Roberto Garza, right tackle J’Marcus Webb.
Any of the group could be extended before next year’s market opens, and some likely will be. Melton’s franchise tag, for example, is a heavy ticket ($8.45 million) and the tag is a way of buying time, as it was with Matt Forte.
But further down the depth chart, defensive tackle Nick Collins brought back on a one-year deal, and rush end Turk McBride was signed to a one-year pact as well.
There are no “free” years in the NFL, and while Marc Trestman and his staff can be expected to have some settling-in issues, Trestman has taken over a team that won 10 games last season with a bad offense. He is expected to fix that, and a falloff from the 10 wins of 2012, given the big-ticket signings of tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett, will be difficult to excuse.
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But real pressure is building on GM Phil Emery and that mounts exponentially over the next four weeks: the draft. The Bears have quarterback and right tackle to pay for in 2013, both major-money positions, in addition to center. The need for hits in the 2013 draft is the first step toward solving salary cap issues in 2014.