In today’s NFL, every season differs than the one that came prior because of the league shake-up we call Free Agency.
This gives teams the opportunity to bring in players from other teams that they believe will assist in their championship hopes.
Entering 2015, the Bears hired a new General Manager in Ryan Pace. Although he didn’t bring in any true household names, the rookie GM assembled a solid free agency class. This group of players will aid the Bears in their search to create a new identity for themselves under newly acquired head coach John Fox.
These new players are worth caring about, because if the front office believed in them enough to sign them to extensive contracts, Bears fans should expect big games out of these new faces.
Let’s take a look into some key players who are worth keeping an eye on in 2015 and beyond.
Dubbed the “steal of free agency” by NFL Network analyst Michael Robinson, Pernell McPhee is the obvious forerunner.
He has spent the last four seasons in Baltimore where he’s played with Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and last year’s defensive rookie of the year C.J. Mosley. Playing with linebackers of this caliber has only done McPhee well as he’s played solid football himself.
Last season McPhee was a monster. He came into his own by tallying 7.5 sacks with his limited snaps as a situational player and is expected to surpass those numbers this year.
Bears fans will soon fall in love with McPhee as he plays with tenacity and determination. Two qualities that every Chicago Bear linebacker should encompass.
Furthermore, he just plays the game with a chip on his shoulder. He is always playing at 100% and when he makes a tackle, he puts a wallop on the ball carrier.
Now, as a Chicago Bear he will be expected to create havoc for opposing quarterbacks in Vic Fangio’s defense. I believe the two are a match made in heaven and Bears fans should be salivating at the thought of McPhee getting into backfields (especially Green Bay’s) week in and week out.
You can see what type of player McPhee is with his highlights here.
Coming from Tampa Bay, Mason Foster is another linebacker who could make an immediate impact in Chicago. Instead of being a terror on the outside like McPhee, Foster should become a solid defender in the middle.
We’ve already touched on Foster’s past in our previous post. But just in case you didn’t know, Foster played well his first couple of seasons. In his first three years in the league, Foster tallied 84, 105, and 92 tackles respectively.
However, with the arrival of Lovie Smith in Tampa, coupled with some injuries, Foster was unable to perform like he did in years past. He was not a good fit in the Tampa 2 system. Instead, he’s much better off as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive front.
This is good news for Bears fans as he is the perfect piece to the puzzle. He should return to form and become a solid middle linebacker this season.
Something Bears fans should like about Foster is that he’s only 26 and should have his best football in front of him.
Check out some highlights from his first two seasons here.
Coming from New York, Rolle is expected to not only start for the Bears, but to also help groom the young safeties of Brock Vereen and Adrian Amos.
Although he might not be as spry as he once was, even at 32 Rolle is still a major upgrade from departed Bear Chris Conte. Rolle brings experience and leadership to a secondary that needs just that after the loss of Peanut Tillman.
Speaking of leadership, Rolle is renowned for his ability to lead his teammates. So much so, that it was a part of the reason he was brought onto the team.
One thing that Bears fans should like about Rolle is his consistency. He has only missed one game since 2006 and has had at least one interception each year in the league.
Look for Rolle to have another decent year. He might not make the same amount of big plays as he used to, but he should still have enough in the tank to be a consistent force at safety.
Here are some recent highlights on the veteran safety.
Finally, some one who can manage the slot position, something the Bears have been missing for quite some time.
The past couple of seasons, Chicago has only been able to pass it to either the outside receivers, the tight end, or the running back. Now, with the addition of Royal that all changes.
He brings with him experience in the position, and has already played with Jay Cutler in Denver. Now, bring in Adam Gase who had Wes Welker to work with and Royal could see a lot of balls coming his way.
In a similar role last year Royal did well. He tallied 62 receptions and seven touchdowns. This is exciting because in the past two years the Bears’ third receiver has only averaged 25 receptions for the entire season.
Royal has the opportunity and talent to blow those numbers out of the water.
Which leads into the most overlooked part of the addition of Royal. That is the fact that he will take some coverage off both Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White. That opens up even more possibilities away from Royal and will give the Bears more favorable match ups on the outside than years past.
Check out some of Eddie’s highlights here.
Remember… These have been just a few names. Fellow new players like Will Montgomery, Alan Ball, and Jarvis Jenkins are all expected to contribute in one form or another.
There are a lot of new faces to get acquainted with. Luckily, Bears fans won’t have to wait long with training camp beginning in a couple days. Then we will get our first look at how the coaching staff is expecting to use these players.
Even if some don’t win a starting role, these players are important because they assist in creating the new culture for this Bears team. One thing is for certain, Ryan Pace’s first class of free agents will play an important role for our Bears in 2015.
Now’s the time we find out to what degree these players will make their impact on the franchise. 🙂
In Case You Missed It
Reason #1: Kevin White’s Vitality to Jumpstart Bears Offense
Reason #2: Restoration of Leadership (and the Captain Patch)
Reason #3: New Bears to Help Create New Identity
Reason #4: Players Poised to Perform in Contract Years
Reason #5: The New Coaching Staff of Fox, Gase, and Fangio
Reason #6: Continuing Along the “Cutler Coaster”
Reason #7: Top Three Draftees (Not Named Kevin White)
Reason #8: So Many Questions (Creates a Little Bit of Drama)
Reason #9: New Video Boards and New Lounge to Improve Fan Experience
Reason #10: (Finally) Moving on Past Lovie Smith