“#BEARDOWN!” You may have seen this throughout the NFL off-season from time to time on social media. The Chicago Bears have made many key moves once their season came to an end in late December. After coming as close as they did to the playoffs only to see it come to a screeching halt, decisions had to be made on both sides of the ball.
First and foremost, Bears General Manager Phil Emery felt the need to pay the quarterback. This sparked a pretty big debate for many people (including yours truly), “should we really pay him” was the question asked throughout the fan base. The thought process being, what has Cutler done for the Bears deserving of an extension? Take a look around the league, the money Cutler would get is similar to Tony Romo, Matt Ryan so forth and so on. Quarterbacks in the NFL don’t necessarily have to win big games in order to get money, it’s all about stats and where they stand in the ranks. So the front office pays Jay Cutler, going all in on his ability under center. Rather than start over, the Bears sustain a level of continuity at the most important positions on offense. Now this move was a lot easier to deal with because Phil Emery did’t stop there, forward progress was his goal and he obviously had a plan of action. About a week later defensive line and linebacker coaches were fired, two more were hired just a week later and this is was just in the month January.
Things continued on in February by the signing of WR Joe Anderson, agreeing to a one year deal with C Roberto Garza, and making a couple more moves on the defensive side which is where the Bears needed the most help. The moves made were minor , but both fans of the Chicago Bears and fans of the NFL can see there is an actual plan in place that looks to be pretty darn prosperous. In March it really became interesting because Emery was bold and made a statement around the league. Punter Adam Podlesh was released after a bad season, Chicago then signed DT Nate Collins to a two year deal resulting in yet another defensive move. March 12, 2014 may have been the biggest day for the Bears in this off-season. They acquired DE Lamar Houston with a five year deal from the Raiders, S Ryan Mundy on a two year deal from the Giants, while holding on to LB’s DJ Williams and Jordan Senn on one year deals. With all of that movement it was inevitable that something or someone had to go. It was future Hall of Fame DE Julius Peppers, his course had run out in Chicago and both sides parted ways with no regrets. The Bears then grabbed Willie Young from the Lions on a three year deal and snatched up WR Domenik Hixon from Carolina to add to an already strong receiving corps. A few days later the deal everyone had began to worry about came to fruition, Charles “Peanut” Tillman will be a Bear for at least one more year. A player they couldn’t afford to lose because of his innate talent to cause turnovers. Chicago ends up keeping him around for the right price, Tillman hopes to retire in the same uniform he started in. They brought back DE Israel Idonijie and released veteran WR Earl Bennett who didn’t want to take less money. Bennett was the smallest of the gargantuan group of wideouts. Playing behind 6’5″ Brandon Marshall, 6’4″ Alshon Jeffery and possibly 6’3″ Marquess Wilson and the signing of Hixon, it would have been almost impossible for him to get back on the field consistently, so he moved on.
Then news broke about Cutler restructuring his deal to free up another $5 million in cap space by putting it on his signing bonus, which means it won’t take up space on the salary cap. The fact still remains that Phil Emery has a plan and it looks more and more promising. Normally this time of year in Chicago, fans are looking at other teams making moves and uttering things like, “we could have used that guy” or “why is our front office so bad”, but this year has been the complete opposite. Chicago’s front office deserves credit for improving the defense, getting younger on the defensive line, retaining vets like Tillman and not being afraid to say goodbye to the big names like Julius Peppers. Then, when it seemed the Bears were done spending in the Free Agent Market, they agreed to terms with DE Jared Allen. That may have been the cherry on top, replacing one future Hall of Famer with another who actually may be a little better (according to the numbers). Landing a top player from a Division foe must have felt good after Peppers ended up in Green Bay.
Phil Emery has done an excellent job assembling this team thus far, making sure all the pieces fit together. All good news this off-season for Chicago and with the draft around the corner there is still room for improvement. The NFC Central once again will be exciting to watch with all the changes made, old faces in a new places headlines, will all these moves work, was paying Cutler the right move, it all will be answered soon so keep a close eye on the “Good News” Bears.