Bears biding time as NFL free agency kicks off

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During the NFL’s free agency grace period, which allowed teams to reach out to potential free agents before having the ability to actually sign them, the Bears reportedly agreed to a deal with Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Pernell McPhee.

Outside the official reporting of McPhee’s signing on Tuesday, the Bears have been very quiet since the free agency signing period officially began at 3 p.m. CT.

There have been a few names rumored to be interested in the Bears — such as veteran safety Antrel Rolle and wide receiver Eddie Royal — but nothing has been set in stone yet.

Many Bears fans have been restless in their seats wondering why the Bears haven’t been more aggressive fixing the plethora of holes on their roster. After a disastrous, 5-11 season, who can blame them? But patience is the key as the new Bears regime led by general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox takes office.

The Bears are in a salary cap mess. They have too much money invested in old and bad (or both) players. Start at the top with Jay Cutler‘s inflated contract. There’s been enough discussion about how that is hurting the club. But look to players like Jared Allen, who signed with the Bears last year to be a 4-3 defensive end, but could be a man without a position this year due to a switch to a 3-4 defense. Lamarr Houston and Willie Young are two other players brought in last year to big contracts but might have trouble finding a niche in a 3-4 defense.

Then there are some other big contracts on offense. The Bears have a lot of money wrapped up in running back Matt Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett — both pretty good players but nearing 30 years of age. Most of the starters on the Bears’ roster — heck, even many of the backups — are players who were signed in free agency or acquired through trade.

That’s not the way a successful team builds a roster. You need to build through the draft so that you can acquire good young players with cheap contracts. And as a result of the failures of former general managers Jerry Angelo and Phil Emery, Pace must now clean up the mess with prudent, fiscally-responsible moves.

This includes signing players in free agency at good deals, plus picking up free agents who have yet to enter their prime, such as McPhee, who is only 26 years old and hasn’t yet been given a chance to be a full-time starter to show what he can really do.

So, how do you explain the interest in Rolle? Well, for a team who has a secondary as bad as the Bears do, they need a quick fix at a good price. Meaning, if the Bears do sign Rolle, I don’t expect it to come at a king’s ransom.

Likewise with Royal, who has ties with a few people in the Bears organization. Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase both coached Royal in Denver and Cutler played with Royal for one season before he came to the Bears. Royal is 28 and in his prime — if you can even call it that — so he might have a few good years left in him. Now that the Bears traded away Brandon Marshall, they need another player — or two, really — to complement Alshon Jeffery.

It might get discouraging to sit back and watch all these other teams making moves while the Bears are sitting tight, but there’s a method to madness of Pace, and it involves finding a way to make smart financial moves that both make them competitive and heal the cap problems at the same time.

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