The Chicago Bears once again opened the free agency period with a flurry of signings geared towards improving their team to make another run to the playoffs. Shortly after the 3pm opening gun former Giants tight end Martellus Bennett announced that he was on his way to Chicago to sign with the Bears.
Bennett is that strong balanced TE the Bears have been looking for and will immediately replace Kellen Davis in the line up. He can block, he can get down the field and catch the football, he does everything required of a big time TE. Watching Bennett on film you can see just how good of a player he is, he runs very well and can get open like a wide receiver. Bennett runs the entire route tree and does it well for a man who is 6-foot-6 256-pounds.
He may not have the same type of athleticism as some of the elite TEs in the league but he's very balanced as both a blocker and a receiver. In over 103 pass block snaps Bennett allowed only two pressures on the season. No sacks, no QB hits better than Kellen Davis did as a blocker last season. Bennett however wasn't brought in to be a blocker, he was brought in to make plays on the football field and he does that well. He caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns. He also had only five drops on the season another sign he's a very sure handed TE.
Phil Emery talked about finding players who can threaten the middle of the field between the numbers, and that's precisely the type of player Bennett is. He'll fit right into the locker room because he already has a friendship with Brandon Marshall.
A short while after the Bennett announcement came the news about the Bears signing former Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod. The Bears set out to improve the pass protection and have done so with Bushrod, signing him to a five year contract. The contract averages out to roughly $7-million per season over the life of the deal and includes more money given to any Bears offensive linemen in the history of the franchise.
The question however remains, is Bushrod an upgrade over J'Marcus Webb at left tackle? I can't honestly say that he is, but Phil Emery and Aaron Kromer have decided otherwise and are going with Kromer's former pupil. Bushrod was very bad in pass protection during the 2012 season, worse that J'Marcus Webb in terms of total pass disruptions per pass block attempt.
After considering where Bushrod struggled at in pass protection I decided to watch tape on where he was successful. I watched the game against the Broncos, where according to ProFootballFocus he gave up his fewest disruptions on the season. Within the first 20 minutes of play I realized why Bushrod was so successful, he got a lot of help.
Within just these three clips we can see where Bushrod gets help from the fullback the TE and Darren Sproles twice. A chip a double-team all of the same type of help that J'Marcus Webb usually gets, Bushrod received too.
So the question now becomes how much did the Bears truly upgrade the left tackle spot. The Bears are committed to Bushrod for the long term, as his deal is a big back loaded deal that will pay him more later on down the road. As an example Bushrod is only making around $3.1-million in the first year of the deal, while the rest of the money will be paid out later.
If the Bears missed on Bushrod it could be a problem, if 2012 was an anomaly then he will be a very solid signing, likely for the rest of his career.