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Most Bears free agents would like to stay

Special- teams ace Corey Graham who made Pro Bowl wants play for team thgives him chance play defense. | Ben

Special- teams ace Corey Graham, who made the Pro Bowl, wants to play for a team that gives him a chance to play defense. | Ben Margot~AP

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Updated: February 4, 2012 11:44AM

The Bears’ season officially ended Sunday, and the team has decisions to make on its 12 free agents.

From the players’ perspective, most of them were interested in coming back, even safety Brandon Meriweather.

“I just didn’t capitalize on the opportunity the way they wanted me to or the way I felt I should have,” Meriweather said. “Everything happens for a reason, so we’ll keep it cordial.

“I’m open-minded about playing anywhere, to be honest. I just love to play football. I just got to get back to the basics.”

Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, defensive end Israel Idonije, wide receiver Roy Williams and safety Craig Steltz were among the free agents who expressed a desire to return. Pro Bowl special-teams player Corey Graham reiterated that his preference is to play for a team that gives him a chance to play defense, and tight end Kellen Davis felt underused in the offense.

Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte is an unrestricted free agent, but the Bears could put the franchise tag on him. Running back Kahlil Bell said he still aims to be a starter, but he’s a restricted free agent, giving the Bears an opportunity to match any offer for him or receive compensation if he’s signed away.

Idonije had a strong finish in Minnesota but had only five sacks for the season.

“I want to be here,” Idonije said. “I have an incredible relationship with the coaching staff, and I understand the system. So my No. 1 focus is to stay.

“I’m not worried about any of the other stuff. I’ve just focused on putting in the work, getting better.”

Idonije said he’s not necessarily going to go to the highest bidder.

“That’s never been my focus,” he said. “I have goals that I have set for myself. Without question, Chicago is where I can achieve my goals on the field.”

As for Davis, he said he had a strong season blocking, but he lamented that he didn’t get more chances to catch more passes.

“Of course, I want to catch more balls, but I did what I could with the opportunities they gave me,” said Davis, who led the Bears with five receiving touchdowns. “I’ve got to see what happens. There’s obviously a lot of factors that go into all that. We’ll see where the offers are at and who is interested, and weigh it out.”

Davis, though, made it clear that the Bears will “always be in the mix.”

Other free agents include cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Zack Bowman and quarterback Caleb Hanie.

After being released by the New England Patriots and claimed by the Bears, Meriweather started four games, but he struggled and was benched.

His confidence remains unshaken.

“Oh, my confidence is through the roof; I’ll never lose that,” he said. “You have to keep your confidence, no matter what. So I still feel like I’m the best safety on the planet.”

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