Urlacher remains a question mark for Bears
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)
General manager Phil Emery said the veteran linebacker is still a player the organization wants, but there are salary-cap concerns after signing the two big name free agents.
''We are up against the cap,'' Emery said. ''So, we are going to have to be very slow and methodical and make sure that every decision that we make is going to be in the best interest of our team moving forward in terms of putting the best players on the field to win. It is going to have to be slow because every dollar is going to count against the cap and we are up tight against the cap.''
The Bears have cut tight ends Matt Spaeth and Kellen Davis and defensive tackle Matt Toeaina to save money against the cap well as open up roster spots. Whether it will be enough to sign Urlacher is an open question.
An unrestricted free agent, Urlacher missed the last four games of 2012 due to a hamstring injury after suffering from knee problems earlier in the season. He will be 35 in May.
Emery repeated an earlier statement that he will not openly discuss his negotiation process with Urlacher.
''We have approached him about coming back,'' Emery said. ''As far as working it out, that is an ongoing process.''
Originally, Emery said a chief aim was to make sure Urlacher does not feel slighted if the team failed to sign him by the start of free agency.
''Well, the talks are ongoing so I don't why anybody would feel slighted,'' he said. ''We haven't come to conclusion.''
Emery was a bit more open about the team's plans for Bushrod, the former New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl player who will start at left tackle, and Bennett, a tight end who set career highs with the Giants last year.
Bushrod brings the Bears a sorely needed protector for quarterback Jay Cutler's blindside, the kind the Bears haven't had since John Tait retired in 2008.
''In terms of when a defender would counter rush either inside or outside, he was best among his class in being able to redirect his body, stay in front and keep the defender off the quarterback against those type of rush moves, not only from a speed standpoint but from a counter perspective,'' Emery said.
Bushrod said it was important to be reunited with Aaron Kromer, who was hired by new Bears coach Marc Trestman as the team's offensive coordinator. Kromer was Bushrod's offensive line coach in New Orleans.
''He was probably a major factor for why I'm here,'' the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Bushrod said. ''We established a good relationship over the last three or four years. He's worked with me. He's seen the lows, he's seen the highs. He's familiar with me. I'm familiar with him. When I found out this was one of the places I could end up, it was a no-brainer.''
With Bushrod at left tackle, Trestman said plans are for J'Marcus Webb to move from left tackle to right tackle, where he played in 2010 when the team made the NFC championship game. Gabe Carimi will get a chance to prove himself at tackle, where he originally played, as well as at guard, where he finished 2012.
After making 55 catches last year with the Giants, Bennett believes he can step in and provide a presence as both a receiver and blocker that the Bears haven't had at the position in years.
''I'm an energetic guy outside and inside, so right now my heart's smiling as well as my legs because I'm ready to run around the field and run down the middle of the field and catch some balls from Cutler,'' Bennett said.
When Chicago had Greg Olsen, it had a high-level receiver who struggled as a blocker. Since trading him, the Bears have had little productivity at the spot. Last year the Bears had only 33 catches from the position.
''I take pride in being a guy who can do both and whether it's blocking 100 times in a game or running 100 routes I feel like I have the ability to do both,'' he said.
Nicknamed ''The Black Unicorn,'' Bennett will also bring some personality to the locker room.
''I'm excited to be a Chicago Bear,'' he said. ''Bears are one of my favorite animals after dinosaurs. I don't think there are any dinosaurs in the NFL, so a Bear is a great thing to be.''