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NFL Draft filled some holes, but Bears still missing big receiver

At 6-2 about 200 pounds Jaguars’ Mike Sims-Walker could fill hole Bears have wide receiver. | Ronald Martinez~Getty Images

At 6-2 and about 200 pounds, the Jaguars’ Mike Sims-Walker could fill the hole the Bears have at wide receiver. | Ronald Martinez~Getty Images

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Updated: June 3, 2011 12:29AM

After the NFL draft, the Bears still have roster holes.

But they filled arguably the most difficult — and among the most expensive — with their top two picks, even throwing in a fourth-rounder to move up and secure defensive tackle Stephen Paea in the second round.

Whether there’s a rookie wage scale or not, the Bears, at most, would give top pick Gabe Carimi a contract that’s slightly more than the five-year, $12.99 million deal ($7.12 million guaranteed) cornerback Kyle Wilson got from the New York Jets in the same spot last year.

Desperate for bodies at linebacker, the Bears selected J.T. Thomas of West Virginia in the sixth round. But they again selected a safety in the third round (Chris Conte of California) and later added a quarterback (Nathan Enderle of Idaho in the fifth), which many considered luxuries the club couldn’t afford.

The reality, though, is that the Bears have put themselves in position to be bargain shoppers in free agency, both with undrafted players and veterans. That’s all on hold as owners and players await rulings from the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

But whenever free agency kicks off, the Bears believe they’ll be ready to make some moves, though none on par with last year, when they landed defensive end Julius Peppers.

“We prepared for free agency to open at the appropriate time,” general manager Jerry Angelo said. “There is a lot of work to do in free agency given the number of players, and we feel real good about our free-agency plan as well.

“In some cases, our draft helped that [and] altered our course in a positive way.”

First, as always, the Bears will want to address their own.

Backup quarterback Caleb Hanie highlights the restricted pool, which also includes linebacker Nick Roach, safety Danieal Manning and cornerback Corey Graham.

Center Olin Kreutz and defensive tackle Anthony Adams top the unrestricted free agents. In speaking recently about both veterans, coach Lovie Smith sounded as if they’d be back at Halas Hall in 2011.

In talking about Carimi on Thursday, Smith said, “We are not looking for a rookie to come in and set the tempo in that [offensive line meeting] room. Olin sets the tempo in that room and our vets, and I think he can learn from them. But we would like for tough guys to come in and add something to the room.”

Players such as receiver Rashied Davis and linebackers Brian Iwuh, Pisa Tinoisamoa and Rod Wilson also could return.

But what else do the Bears need?

Given all the draft picks they’ve traded away in recent years, the Bears are unlikely to sign a restricted player who would cost them a selection and a contract. But if they were interested in an outside linebacker, former Minnesota Viking Ben Leber could be a solid fit. And the veteran guard market has several options, including players like Kyle Kosier and Derrick Dockery.

But the biggest hole remains a big receiver — and there’s no shortage of them looking for jobs.

Braylon Edwards, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens all would add size. But would those players — all strong personalities — fit in the Bears’ locker room?

The Bears also could kick some tires of undrafted rookies such as Andre Holmes of Hillsdale College.

Sidney Rice and Vincent Jackson would be excellent fits, too, but they’re both expected to be restricted and/or franchised.

One intriguing player is Mike Sims-Walker, a former third-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who did not give him a one-year tender earlier in the offseason. He is 6-2, reportedly shed some weight to get closer to 200 pounds, and has scored seven touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. In 2009, Sims-Walker caught 63 passes for 869 yards.

Another possibility is Plaxico Burress. One of the keys to the New York Giants’ Super Bowl XLII victory, the 6-5 Burress may be hungry to play when he’s released next month after serving a two-year prison sentence for weapons charges. Burress, 33, is represented by agent Drew Rosenhaus, with whom Angelo has done many deals.

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