Beyond DE and WR, Bears will not be idle

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Beyond DE and WR, Bears will not be idle

The league-wide focus on the elite members of the free-agent class of 2012 has been on a handful of superstars who will command money that will confirm them as franchise players even without any teams tag designating them as such.

The Bears have made a pass rusher and wide receiver their two top needs but what happens after that will have some significant impact on the fortunes of a team that believes itself close to playing for a Roman numeral trophy.

In order of descending priority, three areas with anticipated Bears sightings:

Cornerback: The Baltimore Ravens did not sign Chris Carr, 29 this season, who played all 16 games in his first six years before missing seven in 2011. At 5-foot-10, he has experience but not a top-shelf starters price tag. Brandon Carr has not missed a game in four seasons as a Kansas City Chief as is a Charles Tillman-like 6-feet, 205 pounds. Carr also is someone with whom GM Phil Emery is very familiar from Emerys time in K.C.

Tight end: Lovie Smith has extolled the qualities and upside of Kellen Davis. Whether Davis is adequate to the expected role of a tight end in the offense of Mike TiceJeremy Bates is open to question, however. John Carlson, a former second-rounder out of Notre Dame, missed all of 2011 with a shoulder injury suffered in a training-camp practice. Joel Dreesen could join Amobi Okoye and (possibly) Mario Williams from the Houston Texans to Chicago. Dreesen is rated a bargain by ProFootballFocus.com and the sixth-rated TE by the stats analysts at PFF with receiver skills.

Quarterback: David Garrard has been a starter (Jacksonville) who is working back from injury and willing to take a berth as a backup. Jason Campbells broken right collarbone re-opened the career door for Carson Palmer in Oakland and Campbell has been closely evaluated by the Bears. Campbell had the Raiders off to a 4-2 record before his injury and rates as the sleeper in efforts to upgrade the No. 2 spot at quarterback. Despite the lack of immediate activity on a new deal, Josh McCown is expected back to at the very least compete for a roster spot.

Jay Cutler is reportedly considering retirement

Jay Cutler is reportedly considering retirement

This is apparently the week of Jay Cutler news.

Reports surfaced earlier this week the Bears are pushing hard to find a trade partner for the enigmatic quarterback, though Ian Rapoport reported the organization informed Cutler in mid-January they were shopping him around.

It seems clear Cutler's time in Chicago has come to an end and an ensuing move is more of a formality at this point.

But apparently Cutler may not even suit up again...for ANY team.

Rapoport reported on NFL Network Wednesday night Cutler is mulling over retirement, even as he's healthy and working out now after shoulder surgery.

"There's no guarantee Cutler even plays in 2017, one of several veterans who are still considering whether they want to play or not play, retire, walk away. A lot of things at play here for Jay Cutler."

Host Dan Hellie immediately followed up, asking for clarification on the retirement part.

"It is a consideration; it's something he's confided in people," Rapoport said. "But Dan, I would say, it's not a surprise for quarterbacks this age. We've heard [Ben] Roethlisberger talk about it; we've heard Tony Romo talk about it. If it's not perfect, if he can't find the team he wants or the contract he wants, it's very easy for Jay Cutler to walk away."

Whoa.

Cutler, 33, has made more than $112 million in his 11-year career and is owed at least another $2 million in 2017, even if he's cut by the Bears.

Bears add another assistant coach to John Fox's staff

Bears add another assistant coach to John Fox's staff

John Fox and the Bears have added another assistant coach.

Zack Azzanni is leaving the University of Tennessee to become the Bears' new receivers coach.

Azzanni has been with Tennessee since 2013 as a receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Prior to that, he spent time at Wisconsin, Western Kentucky, Florida, Central Michigan and six seasons at Bowling Green.

Azzanni was on Urban Meyer's coaching staff at Bowling Green in 2001-02 and also coached Pittsburgh Steelers superstar receiver Antonio Brown at Central Michigan. Under Azzanni's tutelage at CMU from 2007-09, Brown totaled 305 receptions for 3,199 yards and 22 TDs, earning a sixth-round draft selection in 2010.

Curtis Johnson spent 2016 as his first season in the role of Bears' wide receivers coach, but announced he was leaving after the Senior Bowl to take a job with the New Orleans Saints.

It's unknown if Azzanni will get a chance to coach Alshon Jeffery (who is currently a free agent) but the incoming coach will have an important job in molding young receivers like Kevin White and Cameron Meredith.

The Bears also announced the additions of assistant coaches Brandon Staley and Derius Swinton II Wednesday morning:

Staley will replace Clint Hurtt as outside linebackers coach and Swinton will be the assistant special teams coach under Jeff Rodgers.

Swinton is reprising his role he held on the Bears coaching staff in 2015 before leaving to take a promotion with the San Francisco 49ers special teams. 

Hurtt left the Bears to take a position as the defensive line coach with the Seattle Seahawks. Staley spent last season as the defensive coordinator at Division-III John Carroll University, the alma mater of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Hall of Fame coach Don Shula.