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Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange
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After re-signing last year's No. 1 tight end, Kellen Davis, to a two-year contract Wednesday (March 14) evening, it will be interesting to see if the Bears actually throw him the football this year.

The 6-7, 267-pound Davis led the team with five touchdown catches in 2011, impressive considering he only caught 18 passes in former offensive coordinator Mike Martz's offense that barely acknowledges the tight end in the passing game. But the Bears believe their 2008 fifth-round draft choice (158th overall) has the skill set to factor into the air attack.

"I think if you want to feature Kellen Davis, you can do that," coach Lovie Smith said last month at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Great size, great in-line blocker, skilled enough of an athlete to be able to move outside and do some things. I really like him."

Davis has played in all 64 games in his four-year career and has 20 starts, including 15 last season. He has 28 career receptions for 300 yards (10.7-yard average) and nine touchdowns. It is expected Davis will be targeted more by quarterback Jay Cutler in the scheme of new offensive coordinator Mike Tice, an NFL tight end for 14 years. That was a factor in Davis' decision to return to the Bears instead of remaining on the free-agent market. As far back as January, he expressed a desire to be more than a blocker.

"I'm never going to be able to make it to a Pro Bowl or do anything like that if I don't get any touches," he said. "For me, that's going to be a factor."

TEAM NEEDS

1. Offensive line: Every position on the line could be upgraded with the exception of right tackle, which should be in good hands, as long as last year's No. 1 pick Gabe Carimi is fully recovered from a dislocated kneecap that sidelined him after two games. Improvement is especially needed at left tackle, given the lack of pass protection provided by J'Marcus Webb last season.

2. 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. The defense is based on getting pass-rush pressure from the linemen, but they did not get that consistently last season.

3. Wide receiver: With the addition of Brandon Marshall, the Bears have their long-awaited No. 1 receiver. But, the most productive member of last year's group, Johnny Knox, is slowly rehabbing from a devastating hit late last season that necessitated back surgery. There is no timetable for his return.

MEDICAL WATCH
No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER
RB Matt Forte (tendered at $7.742 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.

--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.

--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.

--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?

--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 (tendered at $1.26M with no compensation) 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

--TE Kellen Davis: UFA; $6M/2 yrs, $2.7M SB.

--DE Israel Idonije: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--CB Tim Jennings: Potential UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

--QB Josh McCown: UFA; $850,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB.

--S Craig Steltz: UFA; $1.64M/2 yrs.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--QB Jason Campbell: UFA Raiders; $3.5M/1 yr.

--LB Blake Costanzo: UFA 49ers; $2M/2 yrs, $400,000 SB.

--WR Brandon Marshall (trade Dolphins).

--WR Eric Weems: UFA Falcons; $4.2M/3 yrs, $1,5M guaranteed.

PLAYERS LOST

--NT Anthony Adams (released).

--S Brandon Meriweather: UFA Redskins; $6M/2 yrs.

--T/G Frank Omiyale (released).

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

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