The Chicago Bears made headlines before the start of free agency, agreeing to trade wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets. Now that the team is able to sign free agents, they’ve begun to add pieces for the 2015 NFL season.
Antrel Rolle has agreed to play for the Bears, signing a three-year contract worth $11.25 million. The safety has played with the New York Giants for the last five seasons, never missing a game. He recorded 71 tackles and three interceptions last year. The 32-year-old was a key contributor on New York’s 2011 Super Bowl winning team, and he was elected to the Pro Bowl in 2009, 2010 and 2013, having played with the Arizona Cardinals for the first five years of his career.
The Giants felt it wise not to overpay for Rolle, but the Bears desperately needed help at safety. Rolle replaces Chris Conte, who will reportedly sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being a part of one of the league’s worst pass defenses in 2014. Opposing quarterbacks registered a 101.7 passer rating against the Bears, ranking 31st in the NFL. Chicago’s passing defense also ranked in the bottom three in opponents' passing yards, passing touchdowns and completion percentage.
The Bears are also looking at signing Ron Parker, scheduling a meeting with the safety. Parker played all 16 games in each of the last two seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs. He helped Kansas City rank second against the pass in 2014, finishing behind only Seattle’s “Legion of Boom.” Parker is 27 years old and posted 94 tackles last season.
Chicago has also made an addition on offense, looking to make up for the loss of Marshall. They’ve given wide receiver Eddie Royal a three-year contract. The 28-year-old caught 62 passes for 778 yards and seven touchdowns in 2014.
Royal gives new offensive coordinator Adam Gase another weapon, but Royal won’t produce the same kind of numbers that Marshall did, and he’ll be the No.2 receiver behind Alshon Jeffrey. Royal was a second-round draft pick in 2008, and has never reached the 1,000-yard mark. His best season came as a rookie, and he hasn’t even caught 800 yards in a season since then.
Despite getting rid of their head coach, general manager and top wide receiver, it looks like the Bears will bring back their starting quarterback. Cutler struggled in 2014 and was even benched for a game, but he will be Chicago’s starter in 2015. The Bears reportedly gauged Cutler's value on the trade market, but confirmed that they are sticking with the 31-year-old.
"We're moving forward with Jay Cutler as our starting quarterback," said general manager Ryan Pace.
Chicago went 5-11 in 2014, marking their worst record in a decade. They've made the playoffs just once in the last eight years.