Garza signing a case study: Could Peppers, Tillman be next?

Garza signing a case study: Could Peppers, Tillman be next?
February 28, 2014, 8:00 am
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The re-signing of center Roberto Garza on Thursday served as a snapshot of one aspect of Bears’ GM Phil Emery’s operating philosophy. He and the organization have been consistently pre-emptive in matters of major roster import, and setting markets for their own rather than being reactive, certainly on offense. Consider:

Garza was signed about a week ahead of the pre-signing period of free agency when players under contract can begin talking to other teams. Left guard Matt Slauson was an immediate post-season re-signing. So was quarterback Jay Cutler. And now-No. 1 cornerback Tim Jennings. None were within two months of free agency starting.

[MORE: With Garza, Bears OL whole is greater than sum of the parts]

Tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett were signed within hours of the start to 2013 free agency. The offense had a remaining acute need at guard; Kyle Long was grabbed early, with the 20th pick of the first round.

The Bears desperately needed a franchise-grade wideout in 2012. Indications were that the Miami Dolphins were a good bet to cut Brandon Marshall. Emery pre-empted any market with a trade just ahead of free agency and any other team making a play in the event Marshall came available.

The consistent thread has been time. Virtually all of Emery’s major moves have been very early in, usually before, whatever timeframe was in play.

If recent history and developments with high-priced veterans elsewhere in the NFL are any indications, Emery will make a move with defensive end Julius Peppers sooner rather than later, to adjust the Bears' finances and/or to give Peppers his independence to seek employment elsewhere.

[RELATED: Can the Bears count on free agency for answers on defense?]

Last offseason, the Bears' talks with Brian Urlacher were in the process of breaking down at the outset of free agency; less than one week into the open period, the Bears announced an end to those efforts. If the Urlacher situation and also Garza's offer any sort of template for the Emery's handling of high-mileage Bears free agents, cornerback Charles Tillman likely has an offer from the Bears. Whether it winds up at a level he likes, or if it was a straightforward this-is-our-best-shot as Urlacher's was, warrants watching. But it would be unlike Emery to be simply sitting back doing nothing on a player who wants to be a Bear and who the Bears see as having value.