The NFL begins free agency Tuesday and many teams, including the Bears, have plenty of changes ahead. Columnist Tom Musick and sports editor Jon Styf discuss:
Styf: Although it ultimately might have the least difference on the Bears’ 2014 season, Josh McCown’s future has been much discussed. As with anyone, there are rumors. Some are certain he’ll sign with Tampa Bay, others think the Vikings will make a move and some think he’ll stay in Chicago at a “fair” price. I bet he’s gone, and the Buccaneers make a lot of sense.
Musick: Selfishly, I want McCown to re-sign with the Bears because he’s one of the nicest and most insightful professional athletes I’ve ever covered. But if I had to guess, I’d say he heads elsewhere. Too many teams need help at quarterback, and those teams are likely to offer significantly more money than the Bears can afford. If I’m McCown, I go where I have an opportunity to start and where I can secure my family’s future for the long term.
Styf: Another interesting negotiation will be Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett. The Bears are an obvious factor because he’s Martellus’ brother and they have a definite need at the position. The Seahawks made him an offer and Michael decided to wait and see what free agency had to offer. That’s a good sign for the Bears and for you getting odd quotes, if Michael’s anything like his brother. I know Michael’s the quiet one, but he has to have some of that in him.
Musick: Yes, even if he is 1 percent as eccentric as Martellus, he still will be more interesting than about 45 other guys on the team. I think it’s fair to guess that the Bears would have to cut Julius Peppers in order to afford Michael Bennett, but at this point in Peppers’ career, that represents an upgrade at defensive end. How about the secondary? Are you bringing back Peanut Tillman or letting him walk? Have you ever seen a Peanut walk?
Styf: Let Lovie Smith have Devin Hester and Peanut and Champ Bailey. They all can go to the Florida Gulf Coast to age like ... you know ... people do. The Bears need to start over and get young on defense. They don’t need to be giving aging guys new, fat deals.
Musick: Brian Urlacher is not going to like that. Cue his “no loyalty” comments in 3, 2, 1...
Styf: He just doesn’t have his facts straight. This isn’t about loyalty. They offered him $2 million. That’s not a slap in the face, that’s reality in the NFL. Careers are short. The risks are high. Get paid while you can and then get out. Obviously, the Bears had a good grasp of the market for Urlacher because it doesn’t look like anyone else offered to pay him more.
Musick: The Bears won’t be the only team letting go of popular veterans. One name that emerged this week is Darren Sproles, whose days with the New Orleans Saints could be finished. I could see Sproles fitting in well alongside Matt Forte with the Bears. To make room, they could cut Michael Bush. Maybe Bush could go join Team Lovie, too.