Free agency kicks off in a little more than two weeks, so let’s count down the top 10 Chicago Bears players set to hit the open market March 10:
We’ll go in reverse order.
Here’s No. 10:
Darryl Sharpton, linebacker
2014 pay: $730,000
By the numbers: Played in just 9.9 percent of the team’s defensive snaps last season, making his debut in Chicago’s starting lineup in an Oct. 12 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Sharpton posted 15 tackles and broke up one pass.
The case for keeping him: The Bears need inside and outside linebackers in the switch to a 3-4 front, and while Sharpton likely wouldn’t challenge for a starting job, he’s proved more than capable as a backup and special-teams contributor. Sharpton opened eyes in the team’s win over Atlanta, with some pondering whether he deserved a more significant role on defense. Sharpton filled in for Brian Cushing in Houston’s 3-4 scheme back in 2013, racking up 87 tackles in 15 games. Sharpton certainly won’t break the bank in a new deal, so it’s worth it to bring him back because he’s a quality backup with experience working in a 3-4 front.
The case for letting him walk: Although Sharpton has proved to be a solid performer, he’s been injury prone throughout his NFL career. Prior to coming to Chicago, Sharpton started the 2012 season on the physically unable to perform list and finished it on the injured reserve. Sharpton played in just eight games in 2011, a year removed from playing 12 games in 2010 and starting in six of them. The Bears placed Sharpton on the injured reserve in December due to a hamstring injury. Prior to the club ending Sharpton’s season, he hadn’t played for the Bears since Week 8.
Prediction: Although injuries remain a concern regarding Sharpton, it’s worth it for the Bears to bring him back on a one-year veteran minimum type of deal if he doesn’t sign with another team because of his experience in 3-4 schemes. A deal for Sharpton likely won’t come until the back end of free agency.