The 2016 NFL Free Agency period begins on March 15, which is when free agents can officially sign contracts with their new teams. There will be a three-day period leading up to the official start of the league year, at which point teams are allowed to contact agents to discuss options. Typically, news and rumors of player interest is leaked to the media within that three-day period, which spoils some of the surprise on signing day.
The Bears have quite a few of their own free agents they need to consider re-signing before they look outside the organization for upgrades. Here’s a list of the top 10 players on the list, plus a handful of others they need to consider.
Player, Position (Age)
Top 10 Chicago Bears Free Agents
- Matt Forte, RB (30)
Have we seen the end of the Matt Forte era in Chicago? Forte is still among the best backs in the league, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 and the Bears have Jeremy Langford waiting in the wings. At a reasonable price that doesn’t detract from their efforts and finances to improve other positions on the team, Forte of course would be welcomed back.
- Alshon Jeffery, WR (25)
The fact that Alshon Jeffery missed seven games in 2015 with calf and hamstring injuries only complicates his contract negotiations. It doesn’t help that rumors of his unhappiness in Chicago are circulating, either. But the Bears cannot let Jeffery leave Chicago for nothing, so if they cannot agree to a long-term deal with him, they must at least consider using the franchise tag on him.
- Tracy Porter, CB (29)
The Bears got great value from the veteran Tracy Porter this season as he came up big in several games in pass defense. Porter wasn’t expected to be a key starter for them, backing up Alan Ball to start the season. The Bears certainly could use an upgrade at the position, but with more pressing needs elsewhere, Porter would provide nice leadership and stability on a short-term contract.
- Jarvis Jenkins, DL (27)
The Bears brought in Jarvis Jenkins on a one-year deal to apply a quick fix to the defensive line. Switching from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 left them without a true 3-4 end, and Jenkins filled that role nicely. Jenkins proved that he could be a rotational player and is worth bringing back at the right price.
- Zach Miller, TE (31)
Zach Miller is a cautiously intriguing option for the Bears at tight end. He’s 31 years old, but doesn’t have the high mileage on his body that others his age do, because he missed three full seasons. Jay Cutler seemed to develop a rapport with him and he would be a solid second option in two-tight sets. I would not sign him to be my No. 1 tight end, but if they choose to keep Martellus Bennett around, Miller would be a great second piece to keep.
- Sam Acho, OLB (27)
I love Sam Acho’s work ethic and instincts. He’s not the best at his position, but he flies around and makes plays and is a good piece for both special teams and as a backup outside linebacker. He also fits the mold of the kind of culture the Bears want to instill in the locker room and on the field.
- Josh Bellamy, WR (26)
Josh Bellamy still has to hone his skills, but he has a nice skill set and body frame and he’s worth bringing back to solidify the depth chart, especially if the Bears aren’t able to retain Jeffery. I don’t see Bellamy as a starter, but he’s a nice spot player.
- Marc Mariani, WR (28)
The Bears brought Marc Mariani to Chicago to return punts, but he turned out to be a nice slot receiver while Jeffery and Eddie Royal sustained injuries. The Bears could use an upgrade at punt returner, which would likely make Mariani expendable, but there are far worse options to have.
- Mitch Unrein, DL (28)
Head coach John Fox brought Mitch Unrein with him from Denver and he has turned into a nice situational player. Unrein appeared in 14 games, starting four of them in place of Eddie Goldman while the rookie battled injuries. Goldman is the nose tackle of the future for the Bears, but Unrein is a good rotational player.
- Shea McClellin, ILB (26)
The Bears and inside linebacker Shea McClellin could be about to part. McClellin made yet another position switch this past offseason and the coaching staff felt so highly about him that they made him the play caller on the field. As we all saw from the eye test, McClellin struggled at his new position just has he has the past two. For his speed, he’s worth keeping as a backup defender and a key special teamer, but that’s a sad state of affairs for a former first-round pick.
Other Chicago Bears Free Agents
- Alan Ball, CB (30)
- Chris Prosinski, S (28)
- Deonte Thompson, WR (26)
- Greg Scurggs, DE (25)
- Jacquizz Rodgers, RB (25)
- Rob Housler, TE (27)
- Sherrick McManis, CB (28)
- Sherrod Martin, S (31)
- Will Montgomery, C (32)
- Ryan Pace and John Fox season-ending joint press conference
- Bears-Packers record headed for all-time tie on Sunday
- Vic Fangio, Bears can’t be headed toward a divorce
- 2016 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year
- Chicago Bears tank? Not going to happen
- Jay Cutler's shoulder surgery could end Bears career
- Alshon Jeffery's suspension is Bears' long-term gain
- Jay Cutler at fault, but all Bears to blame in loss to Bucs
- Jay Cutler’s return sparks team as Bears beat Vikings
- 'Jay Cutler or Brian Hoyer' quarterback controversy answer is clear