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Bears GM Phil Emery has narrowed his list to players who can start now

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Updated: June 3, 2014 6:38AM



The Bears have narrowed their first-round shopping list to six players.

“I’d be happy that two out of the six were on the board at our pick,” general manager Phil Emery, whose team owns the No. 14 pick, said Thursday. “And I’d be ecstatic if three out of the six were on the board.”

Those players, despite Emery’s bluff otherwise, will be defenders.

And they will — they must — be able to start immediately.

The window to win a championship is open, but it won’t stay that way forever.

The signing of future Hall of Fame defensive end Jared Allen to a four-year deal and quarterback Jay Cutler to a seven-year contract (which is ostensibly a three-year contract) ensures as much.

Linebacker Lance Briggs, cornerback Charles Tillman and, unless he gets his extension, receiver Brandon Marshall all have contracts set to expire at the end of the season.

The time to draft for immediate need — be it at safety, defensive tackle or, to a lesser extent, linebacker or cornerback — is here.

“In terms of a window, I’m always thinking now,” Emery said. “But, obviously, when you look at needs, you have to look not only at our perceived current needs, but needs in the future in relationship to the contracts that you have.

“You’re constantly looking at the big picture. You can’t just look at today or this season. You have to look into the future. … I would say in the draft, yes, you want to fill what your perceived needs are, but you also want to fill what could be needs down the road.”

It’s Emery’s job to think in the long term. But, given the focus on getting younger on defense, he must hit the short term out of the park.

“You’re always looking for players who can contribute immediately,” Emery said. “Especially at the top end of the draft, [you need players]that can [fill] not only a need but that can help provide some help, whether it’s a rotational player, a rotational starter.

“If he’s a starter as a rookie and you have a hole and he can fill that and his grade warrants that pick, that’s good, too.”

Emery equivocally said that neither safety position has a starter. Alabama’s
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Louisville’s Calvin Pryor could be one from Day 1.

The team needs a defensive tackle, too, though Emery seemed to doubt the top three-technique, Pitt’s Aaron Donald, still will be around.

Should the draft’s first 13 picks feature a run on quarterbacks — Emery hopes three but guesses two will go that high — maybe Donald still will be there.

Drafting another tackle — Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan has the size the team covets — might be a reach at No. 14, but Emery thinks of the line as the most important part of his defense.

“To myself and to our staff, the defensive line has more impact overall in the defense than any single position,” he said, “because that’s where it all starts.”

Perhaps most telling was Emery’s declaration that the Bears have named only one linebacker — Briggs — a starter.

“The rest of it is, the best player wins,” he said.

That player could be Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, replacing either veteran middle linebacker D.J. Williams or the strong-side duo of Shea McClellin and Jon Bostic.

Emery said the Bears probably won’t draft “all defensive picks.” The ones he selects, though, have to be able to hold that window open.

“I don’t know when those defensive players are going to come,” he said. “It could be at any point in the draft.

“I know that the ones that we take we feel like are going to contribute to our defense and help us win.”

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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