by Carlos Nazario,
The new NFL season began on Tuesday, March 13, and a free agency frenzy was promised to occur. Fans were not let down, as many key players were moved and surprising deals made. One of the teams that made some noise was the Chicago Bears.
General manager Phil Emery was hired in January to replace Jerry Angelo, who was fired after 11 seasons. He had a great deal of pressure, since Bears fans had been getting overly frustrated with the lack of moves made in the last few years. Emery had all the eyes of Bears Nation staring at him waiting to see what he was going to do.
Well, Emery made a great first impression. Minutes after the 4 PM start of the season, the Bears announced a trade that shored up a big need for the team. They traded two 3rd round draft picks for Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall.
For years, the Bears lacked a true #1 receiver, one who could be counted on to make big catches and gain a lot of yards. It has been 9 years since they had a receiver gain 1,000 receiving yards, while Marshall has gotten that for the last 5 years.
The move also reunited Marshall and Cutler, who had great years together in Denver before Cutler was traded to Chicago. In 2 years together, Cutler and Marshall connected on 206 passes for almost 2600 yards, most among any other QB/WR combo.
That was not the only move made by Emery. Last season, the Bears were rolling at 7-3 and had a stranglehold on a playoff berth when Jay Cutler broke his thumb. They had Caleb Hanie as the backup, and he was just miserable, throwing more interceptions in 4 games than Cutler in 10 games. The offense was stagnant, they went 1-5 the rest of the way, and finished out of a playoff spot. A quality quarterback who could come in and handle a team in case the #1 gets injured was needed. In comes Jason Campbell.
Campbell is not a superstar, but he has had some good years, especially last season when he had the Raiders playing well before an injury finished his season. If Cutler gets injured, Campbell can come in and, while not maybe playing as well as Cutler, he can take a leadership role that will be needed.
The Bears also solidified one of their strong areas. They signed Blake Costanzo and Eric Weems. Costanzo was a vital part of the San Francisco 49ers’ special teams, registering 17 tackles. Weems is a Pro Bowl returner, and his addition adds another 20+ yards average to the kick returning corps. Hester averaged 22 yards, Johnny Knox added 26 yards and Weems 23 yards. Weems is also insurance for the Bears in case Knox misses time with the back injury he sustained last season.
In addition to acquiring new players, Emery also kept key players in the fold. The Bears signed CB Tim Jennings, TE Kellen Davis, QB Josh McCown, DL Israel Idonije, and S Craig Steltz. Not bad for a first week of work.
There is still some work to be done, however. The Bears still need a pass rusher, a running back to complement Matt Forte, some help on the offensive line, and perhaps a cornerback. Emery is still looking at some players in free agency, and is preparing for the upcoming draft.
The moves made by Emery have generated a great deal of excitement in Chicago. After several years of criticizing Angelo’s missteps, the fans are getting what they have been clamoring for. They have a weapon to compete in today’s pass-happy league. They have made themselves a team that better competes with the Green Bay Packers.
Let’s see what Emery does in the draft and just start the season already!