If little happens between now and the 2010 draft, the Bears could find that defensive end is more significant to their plans than wide receiver is in this draft.
That is because starter Adewale Ogunleye, Mark Anderson and Israel Idonije are all coming out of contract. Now, Anderson will not be a free agent unless the NFL and the players association can work out an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. In an uncapped year, which is what the sides are on track for right now, players do not become unrestricted free agents until they have six years of service in. That will be one motivating factor for the players to reach an agreement on some type of extension. In Anderson's case, that means the Bears would control his rights in an uncapped year.
Idonije is a role player right now who has never been more than a spot starter. He's been moved back to end and that should make him better on special teams again. Ogunleye will be 32. The bottom line is the Bears will have all the cap space needed, and then some, to address their own players if they choose to do so. But it's worth wondering if the contract situation will play a factor in decisions made this weekend with the draft.
"They are going to be out of contract but that doesn't mean they are not coming back,'' coach Lovie Smith said. "So a lot is on the line there. Defensive line is always a priority. You look at our history, we are always looking for a defensive lineman, just like DB's, skill guys, you keep all of those options open."
One guy making a late push with the Bears is Rutgers' Jamaal Westerman. He came in on an official visits and was viewed as a priority free agent type. He might have worked his ways into the plans as a late-round pick, but Westerman would be a project just as last year's seventh-round pick Ervin Baldwin is.
What will be interesting is if the team looks at the position earlier than that. It might not because as general manager Jerry Angelo said, the Bears are content with their line for this season as is. They better hope Rod Marinelli makes a substantial difference because the lack of a pass rush was easily the team's biggest problems defensively in 2008. Stay tuned.