It remains to be seen if the free-agent addition of seven-year journeyman wide receiver Domenik Hixon upgrades the Bears roster, but he'll get a chance to compete.
After five years with the Giants, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Hixon spent last season with the Panthers, where he caught just 7 passes for 55 yards. Despite their dearth of receivers, the Panthers were not interested in retaining Hixon, although as recently as 2012 he produced decent numbers with the Giants (39 receptions, 567 yards, 14.5 yards per catch).
At one point, Hixon was a solid kick-returner, and he still has some value as a special-teams player. He had 7 special teams tackles last season and averaged a combined 12.5 yards on 41 punt returns in 2008 and '09, when he had a career-high 57 kickoff returns for a 22.6-yard average. But in the past three seasons, Hixon has not returned any kickoffs and has just 8 punt returns for an 8.4-yard average.
"We're bringing him in to compete, to find a spot on the roster," general manager Phil Emery said. "We like his size. I always like wide receivers who come in and they're about an inch and a half taller than I am. He has huge hands, great straight-line speed, and he's been a good (special) teams player. He's returned kicks, so it's up to him to fins his spot on the squad. That opportunity is there. That's what we're trying to create, competition, best man wins."
At somewhere around the veteran minimum, Hixon would be more affordable than the Bears' current No. 3 wideout, Earl Bennett, who has a $2.35 million base salary for 2014. But Hixon lacks the physicality and ability to operate in the rugged underneath portions of a defense that make Bennett valuable.
It's also unlikely that Hixon would get playing time at the expense of last year's seventh-round pick, Marques Wilson, who has far more upside.
But Hixon could make wide receiver/special teams standout Eric Weems expendable. Weems, who was fourth on the Bears with 13 special teams tackles last season, has a base salary of $1 million this season and a $100,00 workout bonus. He caught 1 pass for 8 yards.
Even though the Bears lost one of the best backup quarterbacks they've had in a couple generations when Josh McCown accepted a two-year, $10-million deal from Lovie Smith's Buccaneers to be their starter, GM Phil Emery was happy for the 11-year veteran.
"We all want to congratulate Josh," Emery said. "We're very happy for him and very proud for you him. "That's what I talked about post season, that Josh has earned the right and the respect to be given the opportunity to go and look, and he found that opportunity."
McCown's deal could be worth as much as $15 million with incentives, money that the Bears couldn't afford after giving Jay Cutler a seven-year, $126 million deal on Jan. 2.
For now, that leaves the Bears with veteran Jordan Palmer, who has zero NFL starts and a developmental project in first-year player Jerrod Johnson. But not for long.
"Obviously we're going to look at the draft for an opportunity to add to our quarterback roster," Emery said. "And at some point we'll probably bring in a bunch of veterans after this wave of free agency. (After) this first and second wave, we'll take a look at who's still looking for an opportunity, and we'll bring them in and we'll try them out and we may sign another one."