Bears miss playoffs for 6th time in 7 seasons
Uncertainty is following the Bears into the offseason.
There are 27 unrestricted free agents on Chicago’s roster. As
they cleaned out their lockers Monday, a day after their
season-ending loss at home to Green Bay, players considered the
possibility that there will be a lot of new faces around for coach
Marc Trestman’s second season.
”Every year every team is different,” tight end Martellus
Bennett said. ”It’s just part of the business. It’s almost like
every year at school you get new kids that come to your school.
That’s just how it is. This locker room will be totally
Signing quarterback Jay Cutler to a new contract easily ranks as
the biggest issue facing the Bears, but hardly the only important
one. Cutler led an offense that was second in NFL scoring with 445
After Sunday’s game, Cutler said he hoped to return, but can
only let the negotiating unfold. He can be retained by the team
with a franchise tag, but general manager Phil Emery has said he
prefers not to use the tag because of the high cost.
After a career-best 89.2 passer rating, there’s little doubt
other offensive players want Cutler back after an 8-8 season.
”One thing I know about Chicago: It’s been a long time since we
had a quarterback like Jay Cutler,” wide receiver Brandon Marshall
said. ”Next year, if we pick up where we left off, we’ll be OK. I
think last year we were in the bottom of the barrel, as far as
statistically on offense, and this year we’re in the top 10.”
Perhaps as important as Cutler’s signing is how to restore a
defense that collapsed amid pressure from injuries that took away
starters Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, D.J. Williams and Henry
Melton for big chunks of the season. Also lost to season-ending
injuries were nickel back Kelvin Hayden and defensive tackle Nate
”We lost six starters,” said Williams. ”That’s over 50
percent of our defense. You lose two Pro Bowl, Hall of Fame guys
like Peanut (Tillman) and Lance, and lose two starting D-tackles,
we lost Kelvin. We lost me. It’s tough. But guys fought through
adversity and came together and did what they had to do.”
The injury-plagued defense finished last in the league against
the run and allowed a league-worst 5.3 yards per rush, half a yard
more than any other team.
The overall defensive decline has led to speculation about the
future of defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. Players called such
”I thought Mel did an exceptional job,” said Tillman, who was
lost for the final eight games with a torn pectoral muscle. ”I
think he did a really good job despite all the injuries we
Tillman, who is third in franchise history with 36
interceptions, will be 33 in February and is without a contract. He
said he hasn’t thought about retiring and wants to return.
”I think it’s the first time in my life that I’ve had to make
decisions like this,” he said. ”I’m not worried about it.
Whatever happens is going to happen. Whatever happens is going to
be for the good.”
Melton and cornerback Tim Jennings are the other two past Pro
Bowl players not under contract for next season besides Tillman.
Williams also is without a deal.
Veteran return man Devin Hester and 34-year-old center Roberto
Garza are free agents. Like all the defensive free agents, they
want to return to complete what they think was left unfinished by
Sunday’s defeat – the sixth time in seven years the Bears missed
”You saw at times what we’re able to do and be able to finish
as one of the top offenses and being able to go out there and score
points,” Garza said. ”Obviously, we’ve got to continue to build
on that. It’s not good enough and we’ve got something really
special going on here.”
It’s possible others will leave for salary cap concerns, like
defensive end Julius Peppers. Others could be added.
Bennett would like to see the Bears get interested in trying to
sign his brother Michael, the Seattle Seahawks defensive end.
”Hopefully when that starts, I get to go upstairs and talk to
some people about that,” he said.