Teams around the NFL can start contacting and negotiating with agents of players set to become unrestricted free agents on Saturday, but deals can't be executed until 3 p.m. CST March 11 when the new league year starts.
As that date quickly approaches, we take a look at Chicago's pending free agents, and their chances of returning to the team in the fourth part of our series we'll post all week.
2014 free agent: Blake Costanzo
Position: Special teams/linebacker
2013 statistics: Special teams -- 17 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery; Defense -- two tackles
2013 salary: $715,000 base salary and $25,000 workout bonus -- $740,000 cash value
Outlook: Costanzo led the Bears in special teams tackles but the team has made no attempt to re-sign him since the end of the regular season. The outspoken Costanzo didn't seem to click with first-year head coach Marc Trestman. However, Costanzo is a valuable contributor on special teams. He is sure to find work, but the prospects of him returning to Chicago are bleak. Costanzo received a $400,000 signing bonus from the Bears when he inked his two-year deal in 2012. That would be a great guaranteed number for Costanzo to strive for in the next round of free agency that begins March 11.
2014 free agent: Eben Britton
Position: Guard/offensive tackle
2013 statistics: None. Played in 13 games with four starts as an extra tight end.
2013 salary: $715,000 base salary and no bonuses and $4,200 workout bonus -- $718,200 cash value
Outlook: Didn't play the first three games before making his Bears debut Sept. 29 and later starting four games as an extra tight end in some of the club's run sets. In all, Britton played in 13 games and is a valuable backup with extensive experience as a starter. In fact, Britton could attract interest in free agency from teams wanting him to come in to compete for a starting job. Chicago will let Britton test the market to see how things shape up for him, and if he doesn't receive consideration as a potential starter, the Bears might look into bringing him back as a reserve with a veteran-minimum salary.
2014 free agent: Patrick Mannelly
Position: Long snapper
2013 statistics: One special teams tackle
2013 salary: $940,000 base salary and $5,250 workout bonus -- $945,250 cash value
Outlook: When Mannelly recovers from offseason hip surgery he will have a one-year, veteran minimum salary waiting for him from the Bears. Entering his 17th NFL season, Mannelly's skills are still sharp. Maybe he doesn't snap like he did five years ago, but he certainly appears capable of being effective and his usual near-flawless self for the Bears in 2014. There is a chance Mannelly, who turns 39 next month, could decide to walk away from the game on his own terms. That is always a possibility. But if the Bears' all-time leader in games played still has the itch to snap in the NFL, the Bears are expected to welcome him back with open arms. Why wouldn't they?
2014 free agent: Jonathan Scott
Position: Special teams/linebacker
2013 statistics: None. Inactive for all 15 games he spent with the team.
2013 salary: $715,000 base salary -- $672,941 cash value
Outlook: The Bears cut Scott in early September of last season to avoid being strapped with guaranteeing his salary for 2013 due to the fact he was a vested veteran. The Bears brought him back less than a week later, and although Scott was with the team for the final 15 games, he never saw action. Scott, 31, will test the market, according to his representatives, and it's unlikely the Bears will look to re-sign him unless they run into trouble finding younger players capable of contributing as reserves.