Bears general manager Jerry Angelo was lauded for his low-risk/high-reward additions to the roster after the NFL lockout ended. But after five games, the best thing you can say about them is that the Bears didn't waste a ton of money.
Wide receiver Roy Williams has six receptions for 83 yards and no touchdowns. For whatever reason, the lack of a rapport with quarterback Jay Cutler is palpable. As difficult as it is to quantify an abstract effect, it's easy to see Cutler has little confidence in Williams.
Safety Brandon Meriweather has had the difficult task of learning the Bears' defense in an even shorter period of time -- he was signed on Sept. 4, one week before the first game of the regular season. But he's been like a back-up sump pump that fails. Since becoming a starter in Week 2 after injuries to Chris Harris and Major Wright, Meriweather has more negative impact plays than positive ones.
Though the Bears have allowed touchdown plays of 88, 79 and 73 yards this season, nothing illustrates the futility of the defense more than Meriweather's helmet-to-helmet hit on Carolina's Steve Smith in Week 4. Not only did Smith hold onto the ball, but he bounced off Meriweather and finished a 22-yard gain. And Meriweather was fined $20,000 for the dangerous hit.
While Meriweather came with an obvious red flag -- he was cut by the Patriots' Bill Belichick, who rarely if ever gets rid of players who can still produce -- defensive tackle Amobi Okoye looked like a smart acquisition when he was signed on July 30, the second day of training camp. Okoye, a former top-10 draft pick, was cut by the Houston Texans after they hired Wade Phillips and switched to a 3-4 defense.
Okoye has filled a role as a backup in the defensive-tackle rotation. But he hasn't stepped up as a playmaker when the defensive line play has faltered this season. Okoye had a sack against the Falcons in Week 1 and five pressures and a tackle-for-loss against the Panthers. But he's made little impact in the Bears' three losses.
The Texans, for what it's worth, have improved from 30th to seventh in total yards, from 29th to eighth in points allowed and from 23rd to fourth in sacks under Phillips this season.
Running back Marion Barber cost the Bears the most money, but his limited impact has been missed the least, because of Matt Forte's all-around excellence. Barber suffered a calf injury in the third preseason game against the Tennessee Titans and missed the first three regular-season games. He has six carries for 20 yards in two games (3.3 yards per carry) and scored a clinching touchdown on a three-yard run against the Panthers. But Forte is doing so well as a rusher and receiver, Barber's opportunities to establish himself as an inside-run complement have been too few to get a true measurement of his value to the offense.
Defensive end Vernon Gholston, another former top-10 draft pick, was signed after being cut by the Jets. But he made little impact from the start and didn't even make it to the final preseason game. He was cut on Aug. 29. He worked out for the Texans three weeks ago but was not signed.
As it has turned out, the most unlikely addition has made the biggest impact -- fullback Tyler Clutts, who was picked up off the Cleveland Browns practice squad on Sept. 7 -- four days before the regular-season opener. A defensive end at Fresno State who was not drafted and played in the CFL, the Arena League and something called the United Football League, Clutts has played a key role as a blocking back for Forte. In the victory over the Panthers, Clutts helped clear the way for 176 of Forte's 205 rushing yards and also blocked on Devin Hester's 73-yard kickoff return.
Without any offseason because of the lockout and a late start to training camp, all newcomers were at a disadvantage this season. Unfortunately for the Bears, their 2-3 start that has already put them three games behind the division-leading Lions and Packers has put a greater emphasis on the minimal impact of Angelo's low-risk rolls of the dice than there should be.