Free agency has OT options for Bears when the time comes

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Free agency has OT options for Bears when the time comes

A number of decisions are on GM Phil Emerys desk as far as Bears free agents to be pursued and re-signed this offseason. Several are franchise-level choices with six 12 starters unrestricted: guards Lance Louis and Chris Spencer, linebackers Nick Roach and Brian Urlacher, tackle Jonathan Scott and defensive tackle Henry Melton.

But what happens with certain other teams free agents on or before the Mar. 12 start of free agency projects to be potentially every bit as significant for the Bears as what they do with some of their own.

Many of the decisions obviously will be made with a new coach in place, both on Bears free agents and other teams.

The priority area is expected to be the offensive line. The draft is one option, where ESPN draft guru said are likely to be three left tackles and two RTs going in the first round.

Of more immediate impact, however, given that rookie tackles drafted around No. 20 where the Bears currently stand, arent always first-year difference makers, is what the unrestricted free agent market may hold.

And if the new coach someone like Houstons Rick Dennison or Denvers Mike McCoy is a zone-blocking proponent, not every lineman is an automatic fit.

Stat analysts at ProFootballFocus.com have an extensive list of the pending free-agent tackles that includes their in-depth rating, and there project to be some elites available for the Bears. The top five out of contracts:

Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos - Handles Peyton Mannings blind side in an offensive run by McCoy.

Gosder Cherilus, Detroit Lions - A right tackle but played well enough that No. 1 pick Riley Reiff couldnt beat him out. And it takes something away from a division rival.

Will Beatty, N.Y. Giants - Fourth-rated LT who came back strong after missing time with a detached retina in 2011.

Brandon Albert, Kansas City Chiefs - Emery didnt draft him in Kansas City but familiarity counts if the talent and personality are fits.

Sebastian Vollmer, New England Patriots - Another RT but a linchpin of the line that protects Tom Brady and is responsible for the rushers coming in Bradys face.

Emery expressed satisfaction with what the Bears got from Scott at right tackle. The evaluations of Scott, JMarcus Webb and Gabe Carimi will determine the push for whom or how many but at least the market in 13 already projects as better than either of the past two offseasons.

Brandon Marshall responds to tweet asking if he misses Jay Cutler

Brandon Marshall responds to tweet asking if he misses Jay Cutler

The bromance of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall began in Denver when they were drafted together in 2006, and then shifted to Chicago in 2012 via a trade to complete the reunion.

The two instantly hit it off and developed a close relationship on and off the field, a large reason why the Bears acquired Marshall to help spark some old magic.

But things took a turn when Marshall was traded to the New York Jets last offseason.

Asked on Twitter if he misses his former quarterback, Marshall responded with a genuine answer:

Bears sign Chicago native Tony Moeaki, defensive lineman Marquis Jackson

Bears sign Chicago native Tony Moeaki, defensive lineman Marquis Jackson

Tony Moeaki is coming home.

The Bears announced on Thursday that they have signed the former Wheaton Warrenville South standout.

Moeaki attended Bears minicamp on a tryout and impressed the coaching staff enough to secure a deal.

The 29-year-old Moeaki appeared in 11 games for the Atlanta Falcons last season and recorded three catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. Moeaki was originally selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the third-round (93rd overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft out of Iowa. He has 91 receptions for 1,201 yards and six touchdowns in 48 career games.

Moeaki is expected to provide tight end depth and compete for a backup spot behind starter Zach Miller.

The Bears also announced the signing of defensive lineman Marquis Jackson, the twin brother of former Denver Broncos Super Bowl champion and current Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Malik Jackson. Marquis Jackson entered the NFL in 2013 with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent out of Portland State, but has not appeared in a regular-season NFL game. 

In corresponding roster moves, the Bears waived defensive lineman Kenton Adeyemi and linebacker Don Cherry.

Minicamp wrap: Three answers to 'So, how do the Bears look?'

Minicamp wrap: Three answers to 'So, how do the Bears look?'

The Bears concluded their three-day mandatory minicamp on Thursday, ending on a short-term feel-good — coach John Fox canceling the last offseason practice before training camp starts on July 27.

“They’ve earned it,” Fox said with a tone that suggested a degree of satisfaction in what he’d seen at this point of his 15th NFL head coaching season. “I don’t just do that because I feel like it. They worked real hard. We had great participation and they worked extremely hard. They earned it.”

Positive beliefs are frequently easy to find this far in advance of games that matter. But within the work of the OTA’s and minicamp were “tells,” signs that the Bears clearly believe they are nothing like the squad that wobbled through four losses in its final five games to finish 6-10.

But how exactly DO the Bears look as their pre-camp work wraps up? Three answers to that question emerged over the past several weeks:

1. They really AREN’T the same team from a year ago, or even six months ago.

Fox is among those who maintain that big jumps occur from year one to year two for players, particularly young ones. But more than individual players make year-one-to-year-two leaps.

Fox’s Carolina Panthers improved from seven to 11 wins from his first to second seasons with them, reaching the Super Bowl in year two (2003). His Denver Broncos teams went from eight wins in Fox’s year-one (2011) to 13 in year two.

“It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen,” Fox said. “But I’m pleased with where we are this year. If I had to compare to something, it would be this time last year and I feel much better about where we are now than I did at this time a year ago.”

Easy to say, but consider: This time a year ago, six current starters on defense (Mitch Unrein, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Tracy Porter, Harold Jones-Quartey) were not practicing. Jones-Quartey and Unrein were not even Bears.

This time a year ago, Jared Allen was trying to be a linebacker. Brock Vereen was a starting safety. Eddie Goldman was out of shape and barely practicing. Kevin White was busy stress-fracturing his left leg. Jordan Mills was the starting right tackle.

Yes, Fox should feel “much better.”

2.  Bears D is visibly “night and day from last year”

The 2015 Bears defense went into Week 17 last season with exactly one defensive lineman (Will Sutton) who’d been with the team going into training camp. The unit finished 29th allowing third-down conversions and 30th in interception rate, among other less-than-stellar indicators.

Through this minicamp, the practice field frequently echoed with whoops from a defense that had picked off a pass or knocked a football loose. Quarterback Jay Cutler was rarely intercepted through camp last year, a sign of what was to come under coordinator Adam Gase through the regular season. This year he has not had his way with the defense.

“Just going against them from my perspective, it seems like night and day from last year,” Cutler said. “Just going against these guys, it’s a much different group, much different group. They’re faster, they’re quicker and they’ve got a confidence about them. I think Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] really doing a good job of mixing it up and showing us different looks.

“They’re going to help us out, get some short fields, get some turnovers, put some pressure on us to do our job on offense.”

3. Meshing vets adamant: “We can accomplish a lot here.”

Simply bringing a bunch of even talented veterans assures absolutely nothing (insert Daniel Snyder joke here). The Bears experienced that when in 2014 they brought in Allen, Houston and Young, then saw the defense remain at epic lows as the Bears went from 8-8 to 5-11.

This offseason the Bears brought in two starting inside linebackers (Jerrell Freeman, Danny Trevathan) behind a massive defensive end (Akiem Hicks). On offense, Kyle Long returned to guard from tackle as the Bears signed workout-mate Bobby Massie, among other changes.

And the result of bringing together multiple players from winning programs has contributed to a palpable attitude adjustment to one that was conspicuously absent last year.

“I feel like, that you know a lot of people doubt [teammates] or some guys were hurt last year or this and that,” said Trevathan, a Super Bowl winner with Denver last season and who had his ring on display for teammates on Wednesday. “But you know, they're playing like they're hungry, with a chip on their shoulder. They're playing like they're hungry and that's what I'm used to and that's where you need to start.”

“Hungry” in June doesn’t necessarily mean wins in Fall. But a lack of hunger or shoulder-chip typically does point to looming problems, so the strong attitude the other way does count for something.

“There’s a lot of great talent here,” said Massie, a playoff veteran from the Arizona Cardinals under coach Bruce Arians. “And this team can accomplish a lot of good things. From the past team I’ve been with I see a lot of the things that we had with those past teams here. So we can accomplish a lot here.”