NEW – Don’t Count Out Briggs Coming Back Just Yet: It has not taken linebacker Lance Briggs to line up suitors for his services now that he is officially on the free-agent market. Today’s Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that Briggs has four teams expressing interest in his services – Tampa Bay, San Francisco (signed OLB D.Thomas), Cleveland and Denver. The front runner for Briggs from day one has been the Niners, but a charge that they tampered with him during the season now has them possibly moving in a different direction. Despite all the so-called “intense” interest, Briggs has not made any visits so far and it looks like there could be less demand for the All-Pro LB because of his high contract aspirations. With a “standstill” ocurring, this is NOW the time for the Bears to come in and “scoop” him up before it’s too late. It seems like the Bears, day by day, have more of a legitimate shot at retaining the services of the former Arizona Wildcat. Maybe Chicago can work out a deal after all by keeping Briggs, as you have to remember, they have quite a bit of cash to spend with their cap room.
Radar Watch – Free Agency Update: WR Bryant Johnson (Cardinals) is expected to make a visit to Halas Hall next week. Chicago is working on bringing the former Penn State Nittany Lion standout, a pass catcher who possesses great size (6’3” 216), strength, and speed for an extensive look in hopes of reviving the aerial attack. Johnson can be the blocker “Moose” was and a deep threat like Berrian, providing a big target for the QB especially in key third down situations and inside the red zone. Though GM Jerry Angelo isn’t expected to heavily pursue big-name/money free agents, sources say he still is trying as there have been reports of him seeking a multi-year deal for OG Alan Faneca and a candidate in the running for the hometown “prize” RB Michael Turner (Northern Illinois). Chicago is in desperate need of a breakaway threat like Turner and a complete, powerful blocker on the offensive line similiar to Faneca. The problem that arises with Faneca is that he’s already 31 and the team is looking to get younger, and they want some young blood on the OL, (already cut Brown and Miller) and Turner is being “wooed” by at least three other possible suitors that will be higher bidders – so you make take him off your “wish” list Bears fans. You can expect the team to continue searching for answers at WR, OL, and RB but do you really believe they can bring in an impact player via FA that can be a difference-maker if they are not willing to spend much? We will have to find out and hope our Bears make a move soon because there are plenty of solid acquisitions that can be signed, and they are going fast. You never know, they say the “second wave” of FA’s are just as good as the first, plus Chicago wants to find good deal “bargains”
Potential Replacement – 2 For The Price of 1: You can count Atlanta Falcons’s LB Demorrio Williams as another possible candidate (high on the list) to fill-in not only for Briggs’ spot at the weak side but for Ayanbadejo’s spot with the special teams as well. He is a consistent LB and a clear-choice, a no-brainer for the Bears to acquire and it looks as if Chicago is a likely destination for this productive Nebraska alum. Williams (6’0” 232) is a young, intriguing linebacker who’s quick enough to play next to Urlacher and get the job done on the NFL’s #1 rated special teams unit. If Chicago lands Williams I would be a happy camper and it would be a great, low-budget “under the radar” move bringing him to the Windy City. Demorrio has the versatility teams love and has experience playing in the Cover-2 defense (another plus). With Adam Caplan (Scout.com) reporting an upcoming visit from the former Cornhusker to the Monsters of the Midway(Tuesday), the 4th round pick of 2004 may have a deal ready soon to sign as early as next week. With Williams in the works, it looks like the Bears have found their legitimate replacement for both Briggs and Ayanbadejo, a player that would offer the Bears a dual-threat filling two vacancies left on the roster. Williams’ career best season came in ’05 when he racked up 128 tackles to go along with 3 sacks and 2 interceptions. More importantly he is ultra-durable, as he has yet to miss a single game in his four years at the pro level. I expect the Bears to continue seeking him extensively as it looks like Mr. Angelo places a premium (high priority) on a LB that can play two roles just like Ayanbadejo did – only contributing more as a “true” LB. Also keep in mind that Defensive coordinator Bob Babich had his eye on Williams out of college, something to look into.