Will Bears' busy day translate into success

Updated 3/13/2013 5:37 AM
  • It was a busy day Tuesday for Bears general manager Phil Emery as he added two key free agents to the team's offense.

      It was a busy day Tuesday for Bears general manager Phil Emery as he added two key free agents to the team's offense. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

So this is what Phil Emery has been up to while lurking in nooks and skulking in crannies the past couple of months.

The Bears' general manager exploded into hyper activity Tuesday during the first three hours of the free-agency signing period.

Hello, Martellus Bennett.

Goodbye, Brian Urlacher?

Hello, Jermon Bushrod.

Goodbye … Ray McElroy?

When the day ended, the Bears were closer to contention in the NFC North and perhaps even in the entire NFC.

Let's start with the earliest of those moves: The Bears and team chaplain McElroy reportedly parted ways after five years. This was no surprise to anyone who last season muttered, "This team doesn't have a prayer to make the playoffs."

No reason for the divorce was cited, though speculation is that the Bears' offense intends to rely on Jay Cutler's wing instead of McElroy's prayer.

In exchange for McElroy the Bears added Bennett at tight end and Bushrod at left tackle.

OK, Mr. Cutler, let's see what kind of quarterback you can be with offensive-minded head coach Marc Trestman, security-blanket tight end Martellus Bennett and NFL-quality protection from Jermon Bushrod.

One of the more interesting aspects to this flurry of activity is the locker-room dynamic, especially if Urlacher doesn't return. The veteran middle linebacker is a free agent for the first time in his decorated career, and the Bears might not have money left to retain him.

So let's say Urlacher is subtracted while Bennett is added.

Even during seasons Urlacher chose to speak, he didn't have much to say that was very compelling. Meanwhile, a Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter once wrote this about the Bears' new tight end: "Bennett had more memorable quotes than memorable catches at Texas A&M."

One example was Bennett's take on the prospects of hooking up with Tony Romo after being drafted by the Cowboys: "Any quarterback that can (date) Jessica Simpson, I've got to play with him."

The 6-foot-6 Bennett competed in basketball in college, too, after declaring for the NBA draft out of high school. "Football is my wife," he has explained. "Basketball is my mistress."

OK, so Bennett isn't Chris Rock or Lewis Black, but he isn't Brian Urlacher, either.

The Bears didn't sign Bennett to tell jokes. He's supposed to be the full-service tight end they have needed since Mike Ditka left nearly a half-century ago.

I'll believe Bennett is that guy when he proves to be better than his predecessors. Even the popular Greg Olsen turned out to be overrated -- not good enough at creating separation, catching the ball or compiling yardage after catches -- before the Mike Martz Experiment rendered him unnecessary.

However effective Bennett is, he'll still be less important next season at what he does than Bushrod will be at what he does.

The Bears historically have had better luck at left tackle than tight end but not since Cutler came to town in 2008. J'Marcus Webb has held down, if not filled, the position the past couple of years to the frustration of everyone from the Bears fan to the Bears quarterback.

One radio expert said Tuesday that Webb "has all the tools," specifically mentioning arms and feet.

Fortunately for the Bears, the scouting report on Bushrod is that he not only has all his limbs but other qualities necessary to be a quality NFL left tackle.

Overall, the sum of Tuesday's comings and goings at Hall is that Phil Emery had an encouraging day fortifying the Bears.

However, he still needs to add a couple of pieces, and all the new pieces have to be as active on the field as he was off it.


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