The Other 31: Bears move on without Smith, Urlacher on heels of 10-6 playoff near-miss

 

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The Bears announced in March they would not re-sign linebacker Brian Urlacher (right) as a free agent (Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

Chicago Bears

Last season’s record: 10-6

Coaching change: Fired Lovie Smith, hired Marc Trestman

Key players released: WR Johnny Knox (retired), TE Kellen Davis, DT Matt Toeaina, TE Matt Spaeth

Key free agents lost: LB Nick Roach, CB D.J. Moore, QB Jason Campbell, G Lance Louis, G Chris Spencer, G Chilo Rachal, LB Geno Hayes, LB Brian Urlacher (team announced he wouldn’t be re-signed)

Key free agents re-signed: DT Henry Melton, CB Zack Bowman, QB Josh McCown, CB Kelvin Hayden, T Jonathan Scott

Key free agents added: TE Martellus Bennett, T Jermon Bushrod, TE Steve Maneri, LB James Anderson, G Matt Slauson, DT Andre Fluellen, G Eben Britton, DE Kyle Moore, S Tom Zbikowski, LB D.J. Williams, DE Turk McBride

Draft:

Rd. 1 (No. 20 overall)… Kyle Long, G/T, Oregon

2 (50)… Jon Bostic, LB, Florida

4 (117)… Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers

5 (163)… Jordan Mills, T, Louisiana Tech

6 (188)… Cornelius Washington, DE/LB, Georgia

7 (236)… Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State

Analysis: The Bears said their goodbyes to Coach Lovie Smith and linebacker Brian Urlacher in the same offseason, choosing to remake their team even after a 10-win season. They fired Smith after failing to reach the playoffs and announced in March that they would not re-sign Urlacher as a free agent.

Smith’s replacement, Marc Trestman, has a rare luxury for a just-hired NFL head coach: He inherits a 10-win team. And the Bears addressed needs in the offseason. They remade the offensive line that permitted quarterback Jay Cutler to be sacked 148 times the past four seasons. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod was signed to a five-year, $35.9 million contract in free agency. The Bears lost guards Lance Louis, Chilo Rachal and Chris Spencer in free agency. But they signed two guards, Matt Slauson and Eben Britton, as free agents and used the 20th overall pick in the NFL draft on Kyle Long. He probably will begin his NFL career at right guard, although he also lined up at right tackle during a rookie minicamp.

Cutler was given another reliable receiving target with the free-agent addition of tight end Martellus Bennett.

The Bears passed up Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o to take Long on draft night. But they used their second-round choice on Florida linebacker Jon Bostic. He’s a candidate to replace Urlacher at middle linebacker, along with veteran free-agent addition. D.J. Williams.

The Bears were the league’s lone 10-victory team not to make the playoffs last season, going 3-5 after a 7-1 start. If they fail to remain in the postseason mix this season, there is certain to be some looking back and wondering whether such an extensive offseason makeover was necessary.

Why Redskins fans should care:  The teams play Oct. 20 at FedEx Field and potentially could be up against one another for NFC playoff seeding or a wild-card spot.

Conversation starter: Did the Bears do the right thing in ousting Lovie Smith and parting ways with Brian Urlacher after a 10-victory season?

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