The NFL scouting combine kicks off in less than two weeks in Indianapolis, but before the Chicago Bears draft a new rookie class they will be making tough decisions on some veterans.
The Bears have 18 unrestricted free agents. The bigegst names on the list are backup quarterback Jason Campbell, Kelvin Hayden, Israel Idonije, Lance Louis, Henry Melton, D.J. Moore, Nick Roach and Brian Urlacher.
Henry Melton is probably the top priority on the list, but it's likely that the Pro Bowl defensive tackle will have many suitors for his services. Melton's stock has gone through the roof in the last year, and his success at the three-technique in Lovie Smith's defense could have him looking elsewhere. He's from Texas, and even though the Cowboys have talented defensive linemen, you can't help but wonder if he might get interest from Dallas considering they are installing the "Tampa 2" system under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. He also has a strong relationship with Rod Marinelli, who the Cowboys just hired as their defensive line coach.
Brian Urlacher, as everyone knows, is the biggest question mark. He says he wants to return, but the Bears may want to get younger and they certainly would want him at a reduced salary if they were to bring him back. Urlacher's strenths in the middle were tailored to the old scheme, and based on his ability to go sideline to sideline. In a different scheme he may not be as valued.
It's almost certain that the Bears will work hard to sign Lance Louis, who is recovering from a knee injury and may not be ready to start the 2013 season.
D.J. Moore saw his playing time diminished at the nickel back spot in 2012, but has proven that he has value. Nick Roach is unheralded, but has been a consistent performer, possesses crucial experience and would not be a high-priced signing.
Israel Idonije also saw his time on the defensive line decrease with the emergence of Corey Wooton, so the Bears may want to go younger and cheaper in that area.
There is no telling for sure what GM Phil Emery has in mind, especially considering that the Bears will be implementing new offensive and defensive systems under new head coach Marc Trestman. No matter what, Emery has important decisions to make not just for this season, but for the organization's long-term future.