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Vincent Jackson and Mario Williams avoid franchise tags
A pair of two-time Pro Bowl players in their prime will become free agents, and they could fill huge needs for the Bears.
But will the Bears make another big splash, like they did with Julius Peppers two years ago?
One thing is clear: the Bears could do just that, with more than $30 million in space, if the salary cap doesn’t change from the 2011 season.
New Bears general manager Phil Emery has been on record as saying he wants to build through the draft, but he didn’t exclude a foray into free agency. And this year, it’s a buyer’s market.
While the Bears didn’t make the playoffs, they could be an appealing team to prospective free agents for a number of reasons.
Typically, teams don’t let players like Jackson and Williams become free agents. But, with whopping one-year salaries ($13.7 million for Jackson and $22 million for Williams), the San Diego Chargers and Houston Texans just couldn’t place the franchise tag on them.
“We did not like the franchise number; never did,” Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said, according to the team’s website. “Vincent will enter the market, and we will see what happens. We would like to have him continue on with us, but other teams now will enter the picture.”
Jackson has had some off the field issues. But he started all 16 games last season, catching 60 passes for 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns. He not only possesses excellent speed, the 6 foot 5 receiver also knows how to use his size to his advantage. If the price tag gets above $10 million per year, will the Bears want to invest that much in Jackson?
Williams, meanwhile, has 53 sacks in six NFL seasons.
The thought of pairing Williams and Julius Peppers together would be downright scary. Like Peppers, he’s an asset as a rusher and run defender. Throw in Henry Melton and Stephen Paea, and the Bears would have quite a fearsome foursome up front.
While they could afford both, the Bears probably would only land one, then bargain shop in a free-agent pool that has plenty of quality players.