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Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange
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It would seem that coach Lovie Smith would be more involved in pro personnel decisions now, given that new general managerf Phil Emery's area of expertise is in college scouting.

"I was involved in the past," Smith said. "(But) Phil is my boss. I worked together well with Jerry in the past and will do the same thing with Phil. There are a lot of things we have going on right now, but we're excited about getting the perfect mix on that 53-man roster, I should say that 61-man roster (including the eight-man practice squad).

"Phil has jumped in right now and again he knows quite a bit about our organization to start off with. I'm just pleased with how it's initially gone."

TEAM NEEDS

Wide receiver: There is no No. 1 receiver on the roster. The most productive member of the group, Johnny Knox, is slowly rehabbing from a devastating hit late last season that necessitated back surgery. Devin Hester regressed for the second straight season. Earl Bennett is a reliable possession receiver, but he missed five games with a chest injury. Roy Williams showed why very few other teams were interested in him last offseason with an inconsistent and unimpressive campaign. He clearly was not the big, field-stretching wideout that the Bears crave.

Offensive line: Every position on the line could be upgraded, but left tackle is probably the most pressing need, given the lack of protection provided by J'Marcus Webb last season. But there is one school of thought that says Webb isn't as bad as he was made to look last season by Mike Martz's preponderance of seven-step drops and the lack of help he received from tight ends.

Pass-rushing defensive end: Free agent Israel Idonije is a solid run defender, but he had just five sacks playing across from right end Julius Peppers, who drew constant double-teams. The Bears' defense is based on getting solid pass-rush pressure from the linemen, but they did not get that consistently last season, even though 3-technique tackle Henry Melton had seven sacks.

MEDICAL WATCH
No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER
RB Matt Forte (tendered at about $7.7 million).

TRANSITION PLAYER
None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--CB Zack Bowman at 6-1 and 196 pounds, has ideal size to match up with big wide receivers. Bowman has started 16 games but has failed to hold on to the starting job on three different occasions, most recently in Week 16 last season.

--TE Kellen Davis led the Bears with five touchdown catches, even though he had just 18 receptions. With just 28 catches in four seasons, Davis has yet to emerge as a difference-maker, but the Bears believe he has the skill set to be an all-around player.

--CB Corey Graham led the Bears with 22 special teams tackles, which earned him a Pro-Bowl berth. When he finally got a chance to play defense, he picked off passes in three straight games while filling in at nickel back. Since starting nine games in 2008, Graham has just one start in the past three seasons, when he wasn't exactly competing with an all-star cast for playing time. But he wants a chance to play regularly, and if someone offers him that, he'll be gone.

--QB Caleb Hanie is athletic and has been in the program for four years, but he was a huge disappointment when he finally got a chance to play late last season, and the Bears reportedly will not re-sign him.

--DE Israel Idonije is a late bloomer, who started 31 games over the past two seasons and is tough against the run. His 57 tackles last season were by far the most of any Bears' defensive lineman, but he'll be 32 before next season is over, and the Bears would like to get more of a pass-rush threat than they did from Idonije last season (five sacks).

--CB Tim Jennings has started 28 games over the past two seasons, and he plays bigger and tougher than his size (5-8, 185 pounds) would indicate but is still at a big disadvantage against many receivers. He has just three interceptions in two years.

--LS Chris Massey filled in reliably last season, and Patrick Mannelly, the Bears' long-snapper for the past 14 years, is still rehabbing from the torn ACL that ended his 2011 season in November. Mannelly might not be 100 percent for some time.

--QB Josh McCown didn't exactly set the world on fire in two season-ending starts, going 1-1, but if the nine-year veteran can manage the offense after being out of football for more than a year, he's worth keeping, at least as a No. 3.

--S Brandon Meriweather, the former first-round pick, can be an intimidating presence in the secondary, but a lot of his intimidation comes from the kind of hits that the NFL is trying to legislate out of the game, and he was phased out of the picture late last season.

--DT Amobi Okoye contributed in the rotation last season and has five years' experience, even though he's still only 24, so he could have a lot of good football ahead of him. But, with starters Henry Melton and Matt Toeaina back, and last year's second-round pick Stephen Paea expected to play a bigger role, where does Okoye fit?

--S Craig Steltz finally got an opportunity in the final five games, including four starts, and he stepped up with 37 tackles. He's also a key special teams contributor. But the Bears seem to favor youngsters Chris Conte and Major Wright as the starters, so Steltz's role could be limited.

--WR Roy Williams, at 6-3 and 215 pounds, is easily the biggest of an undersized group of wide receivers. But, despite high hopes last season, Williams' production was pedestrian: 37 catches, 507 yards, two touchdowns.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--RB Kahlil Bell was impressive in late-season action last year outperforming Marion Barber, although even in limited action he fumbled three times.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: None.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED
None.

PLAYERS LOST

--NT Anthony Adams (released).

--T/G Frank Omiyale (released).

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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