While the Chicago Bears continue to take a cautious approach to free agency, the fact the team still needs to fill several holes prior to the 2015 season isn’t lost on coach John Fox.
“We have a lot of needs,” Fox told Chicago Tribune reporter Brad Biggs on Saturday night at the NFL owners meetings. “There are still a lot of green rectangles on a board. There are still two pools of players. There are still a lot of guys left in [secondary] free agency, which I prefer dealing with anyway; not the jump-out-in-front [signings]. When you get it going good, you don’t have to do that.”
Chicago hasn’t yet accomplished that part of it under Fox and new general manager Ryan Pace. But the club added five players in free agency who are expected to help immediately, as the Bears try to rebound in 2015 from a 5-11 campaign that led to the firings of former coach Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery.
The Bears signed outside linebacker Pernell McPhee to a contract worth nearly $16 million guaranteed, but outside of that deal, the club has taken somewhat of a conservative approach, opting against bringing in the big-money free agents that cashed in during the early portion of free agency.
Chicago’s other two outside signings -- guard Vladimir Ducasse and long snapper Thomas Gafford -- inked one-year deals.
Despite the team’s limited activity in free agency, Fox told Biggs he’s pleased with the club’s signings.
Fox worked in Denver with Royal for one season, and called him “a veteran guy that we think is playing his best.”
The club remains in the market for a receiver after trading away Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets. If the Bears can’t add one in free agency, they could look to acquire a target in the draft, as this year’s class at the position is deep. Pace also indicated some of the younger players currently on the roster such as Marquess Wilson could see increased roles.
On the other side of the ball, Rolle should prove to be an instant upgrade at the safety position. But perhaps more importantly, he’s expected to provide locker room leadership.
“He’s a guy I coached in a couple of Pro Bowls,” Fox said. “I can’t identify leadership on our defense at this point. I’m not saying we don’t have any. I don’t know. I know this guy does have those abilities.”