Bears have method to their slowness in free-agent game
NEIL HAYES ON THE BEARS July 27, 2011 10:38PM
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams (11) heads to the end zone on a 63-yard touchdown reception as Houston Texans safety Eugene Wilson (26) gives chase in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010, in Houston. The Cowboys beat the Texans 27-13. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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Updated: July 28, 2011 4:18PM
Those who expected Jerry Angelo to be juggling rookie signings with free-agent recruiting after the lockout might be surprised to know the Bears’ general manager is taking a cool and calculated approach to this bizarre bazaar.
Fans who waited 132 days during the lockout for Angelo to follow up last year’s free-agent windfall will have to wait at least another day — or perhaps two. While Sidney Rice was agreeing to a deal with the Seattle Seahawks, Santonio Holmes was re-upping with the New York Jets and the Washington Redskins were loading up on receivers, Angelo signed two late-round draft picks while sticking his toes in the free-agent waters he dove head first into last year, and not without reason.
Signed rookies can report to training camp immediately and begin digesting playbooks. Free agents can’t begin working out with their new team until Aug. 4, which is one reason to prioritize the youngsters. Because teams can’t officially consummate veteran free-agent deals until Friday afternoon, general managers are wary of making their best offers too early for fear agents will shop them to other teams.
Another reason for the Bears slower-than-expected pace might have to do with players they covet receiving more interest from other teams than expected.
Re-signing veteran center Olin Kreutz is a priority, but Kreutz might be wise to weigh his options. He could be on the San Francisco 49ers’ radar after their free-agent center, David Baas, agreed to terms with the New York Giants. Several other Bears free agents might take the same approach, including defensive tackle Anthony Adams, defensive back and special-teams standout Corey Graham and receiver/special-teamer Rashied Davis.
Because players don’t get to be free agents often, they don’t want to rush it.
The Bears also have expressed interest in Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin, although their level of interest is likely tied to how much it will take to sign him. It seems more likely that Babin will end up with the Philadelphia Eagles, for whom he played in 2009. He was with the Tennessee Titans last season, when he racked up 121/2 sacks, 71/2 more than his previous high.
His defensive line coach with the Titans was Jim Washburn, who has been hired by the Eagles. During an appearance on “Pro Football Talk Live” on Wednesday, Babin spoke of his fondness for his former and perhaps future position coach.
While the receiver pool is drying up with Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth, Brandon Stokley and Steve Breaston reportedly off the market, former Missouri quarterback Brad Smith could end up with the Bears as a kick returner, receiver, Wildcat quarterback and all-around chess piece for offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
Another option will present itself when the Dallas Cowboys release receiver Roy Williams. The eight-year veteran enjoyed a career year with Martz when both were with the Detroit Loins in 2006. Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was the Lions’ head coach at the time. If those aren’t obvious enough connections, Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake recruited Williams to Texas and once called him one of the brightest players he had been around.
Williams never made the expected impact after the Cowboys acquired him from the Lions for three draft picks in 2009. However, at 6-4, 210 pounds, he’s the big receiver Jay Cutler hasn’t had since he left Brandon Marshall in Denver. Given Williams’ success with Martz and Drake, he might be worth the risk when Angelo decides to join the fray.
Contributing: Sean Jensen