Although unrestricted free agents cannot be signed until 3 p.m. (Chicago time) next Tuesday, teams were allowed to begin wooing those players at 11 p.m. Friday. That transition time was formerly called “tampering,” but since everyone did it in the past, it's now legit.
While much of the Bears' attention has been focused on re-signing middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, there are several free agents on other teams that should interest general manager Phil Emery.
The Bears have only about $4 million left under the $123.9 million salary cap, so they're not expected to make a big splash. But if they can get an impact player (think offensive left tackle), at a less-than-exorbitant price, there are ways to clear additional cap space with cuts and restructured contracts.
But first, Urlacher. Several reports suggest he's seeking a two-year deal for $10 million, which is Ray Lewis-type money. As great as Urlacher was in the past, he's not Ray Lewis, and he's not worth $5 million a year to any NFL team. He also wasn't worth anything close to the $7.5 million he was paid last season.
Urlacher missed all of the 2012 preseason because of a knee injury he suffered in the 2011 season finale. He also missed the last four regular-season games last season with a pulled hamstring. And he missed 15 games in 2009 with a dislocated wrist.
Urlacher will be 35 in May, and there's no reason to believe he'll play 16 games in 2013, and especially not the following season. He's worth $3.5 million on a one-year deal, and that's only because the Bears don't have an adequate backup on the roster.
As for other available free agents, there are numerous players at the positions the Bears need the most help — offensive line, tight end, linebacker and wide receiver.
Rumors have linked the Bears to Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook and New York Jets guard Brandon Moore. Filling some holes now would allow Emery to take the best player available in the draft rather than reach for players to fill desperate needs.
Players are listed in order of how much money it's expected to sign them.
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