As the beginning of Free Agency looms later this afternoon, a ton of stories have emerged from all over cyberspace regarding which teams should target which players when this massive feeding frenzy is set to start. Now, the Chicago Bears have been a relatively quiet team thus far in the off-season following the hiring of new Head Coach Marc Trestman. However, what is well known is the Bears’ need to shore up their pass protection, and the Bears have already been linked to 3 top OTs: Vikes OT Phil Loadholt, Saints OT Jermon Bushrod, Dolphins OT Jake Long, and in addition Jets OG Brandon Moore. Also, the Bears have been in need of a true dynamic TE ever since they traded Greg Olsen in 2011 to the Carolina Panthers, and one name that has surfaced with the Bears is Titans TE Jared Cook. So, why am I discussing the plausible idea of adding yet another top play-maker into the receiving corps of the Bears that is led by one Brandon Marshall?
Well, here’s the biggest thing, he’s practically the only dependable target in the entire Bears’ receiving corps to begin with. As of right now, designated slot receiver Earl Bennett hasn’t quite lived up to the contract extension he signed back in the 2011 season, and Devin Hester has no desire to play the position anymore. Also, Alshon Jeffery is very young, and he’s coming off a season filled with multiple injuries. In addition, versatile RB Matt Forte has been banged up with ankle issues of his own in the recent past. Plus, Matt Forte’s overall role in this new offense is relatively unknown, as is the use of TEs. The final straw, is the TE market in Free Agency being extremely shallow, where Jared Cook is easily the most wanted name of that market. Still not convinced?
Here’s another area to consider in this potential signing, the Green Bay Packers. Their OL is not exactly a good bunch either, yet the primary reason why QB Aaron Rodgers is having so much success in the passing games, directly relates to the sheer number of targets they have in their receiving corps. Virtually every single WR on their roster is a starting caliber player on any roster in the NFL. Over the years, Green Bay has surrounded and maintained a deep receiving corps for Aaron Rodgers to mature with in their system that’s been a force the past few seasons. Compare that to Chicago, where its Brandon Marshall, then everybody else. The more open targets you have available to you, the faster your QB is able to get the ball out of his hands and pass the rock to move the chains. Building a strong OL is indeed key to a strong passing game, but so is the amount of weapons available to your QB. That, my friends is where WR Wes Welker comes in.
Keep in mind that I’m not the first person to come up with this theory, nor is there any confirmed interest by the Bears as of this minute. But back to the issue, the Chicago Bears need to add a target who would take advantage of the double, sometimes even triple coverage secondaries would have on Brandon Marshall. Alshon Jeffery seems to be the guy that can develop and play adjacent of Brandon Marshall as the #2 to the outside, so the Bears need a target in the soft interior. This is where Wes Welker has done most of his damage, as since he ever first dawned on the fabled patriot on his helmet in 2007, he’s been the shifty workhorse for Tom Brady. In 5 of his last 6 seasons, he’s recorded over 110 recs and 1,100 yards. Even Brandon Marshall has to be impressed with that, and I’m sure he’d be happy to see someone else get locked in by the secondary instead of being locked up himself. It’s not that Brandon Marshall ever had a tough time getting open, it’s just a ton of punishment on your body to be asked and depended on as the only reliable option for Jay Cutler. Adding Wes Welker in the slot, would force teams to pick and choose, as well as end any hopes of double covering Brandon Marshall. So…what about fixing the offensive line?
That’s the one question I or anyone else would have to ask themselves before considering this move. The Chicago Bears currently have but $6-7 mil in cap space depending on where you search. That, is not a lot of money to throw around in Free Agency, let alone compete with the New England Patriots, who essentially have an entire bank at their disposal in comparison. As of this minute, the Bears have been talking to LB Brian Urlacher, and it is completely unknown how that situation is working out. There is a considerable “x” factor that would lead to this idea being a possibility instead of a complete impossibility, and that is GM Phil Emery. He likes it to be this quiet in the off-season, where he doesn’t tip his hand to anyone in the media until the day of that move. It allows for him to work in secrecy, and prevent other teams from interfering with his work. Classic example: the trade for Brandon Marshall just this past off-season. Absolutely nobody expected that move to happen, especially for just a pair of 3rd round picks. The Bears have pulled of surprise moves before that, as they also completely wowed everyone in 2009 by landing QB Jay Cutler in a surprise trade. And, the Bears can be very quick when it comes to modifying their roster and players’s contracts to compensate for a large move, case point in restructuring Julius Peppers’s deal last summer and also extending Lance Briggs’s contract by two seasons. So, the Bears could make a few moves in secrecy regarding their own players under contract, then make a huge splash in Free Agency by landing an OL or two, and then signing Wes Welker. Wes Welker is also 31 years old, where he’s not generating nearly as much interest as WR Mike Wallace is right now in the open market. I can’t put a real dollar value on Welker, given how he’s generally played in the slot yet has the stats that tops most wideouts in the NFL. Yet, he may not cost nearly as much as some may feel, and for the sake of argument he would be a huge addition for a team making every attempt at winning the Super Bowl “now”. Plus, there is the draft as well, where the Bears could pick up even more OL and a talented TE to develop.
Of course in an off-season that’s seen more action from the league in general than it has in past years, anything could happen. Right now at least, there is no official word on the Bears pursuing Wes Welker, most if not all talk is “hype” for now at least. But, seeing how the Chicago Bears have shocked people in a big way over the recent few years, do not ever rule the Bears out of any talk that would involve adding a dynamic play-maker to their offense. Bears Head Coach Marc Trestman and Phil Emery have made it crystal clear they aim to help Jay Cutler in any way they can, and providing him such a dangerous target in the receiving corps to compliment Brandon Marshall, would do just that.