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Going over the Bears' 80-man roster right now, one position of need really jumps out at you. We're not covering any new ground when we write that they are banking on considerable production from multiple unproven players at wide receiver in 2009. Donald Driver beat us to the punch on that already.

Earl Bennett is a projected starter with zero NFL catches. Rookies Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox are being counted on and the Bears are hoping they don't require a "redshirt year'' that some in the organization say Bennett had. Then you have starter Devin Hester and veteran slot receiver Rashied Davis. Brandon Rideau could also figure in the mix and he has virtually no NFL experience.

But if Lovie Smith could make one personnel move right now, import one player to his roster, would it be a receiver? Maybe. But think back to five years ago when Smith was first on the scene. The Bears went to training camp at Olivet Nazarene University and before they got out of there Smith made up his mind, he needed a pass rusher to make his defense go. We've heard Smith say it every year as the draft approaches, he can never have enough players who can get to the quarterback.

Well, the price for an elite pass rusher just went up. A lot. All of a sudden you've got multiple pass rushers (Dwight Freeney's $72 million contract is standing up just fine) making more money than some top passers, a trend that is sure to change and maybe before the Bears get around to doing a deal for Jay Cutler. Consider the joy among edge rushers this week:

*** Terrell Suggs beat the deadline that comes with the franchise tag to sign a longterm contract in Baltimore. He bagged $63 million over six seasons, the same money Matt Cassel got in Kansas City this week. According to reports, Suggs will receive $38 million guaranteed and his total bonus money in the first two years of the deal is $33.1 million, just shy of the $34 million in bonus money Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning had in his contract.

Need No. 4--Defensive end

Players on roster

DE Alex Brown (signed through 2011)
DE Adewale Ogunleye (2009)
DE Mark Anderson (2009)
DE Israel Idonije (2009)
DE Ervin Baldwin (2011)
DE Joe Clermond (2010)

Need

If the 2010 draft was three days away, you could be looking at the No. 1 need for the club. The plan is for new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli to have a major impact on the players he's inheriting. That won't do the Bears a lot of good if three of the top four ends are elsewhere after this season. Marinelli believes he has a player who is ready to take a big step in Brown, and that would be worth seeing. You could make a case he has been the most consistent player on the defense over the last several seasons, even during the ill-planned 2007 season when Lovie Smith and Bob Babich put Anderson where he was least effective, in the starting lineup. Brown is a solid two-way player and if Marinelli can have an impact on his pass-rushing ability, right end will not be a need spot for another few years. But as Smith says, you can never have enough players who can pressure the quarterback.

INDIANAPOLIS--Two of the biggest names that could have reached the free market have been crossed off the list.

As expected, Carolina reached terms on a contract with left tackle Jordan Gross. He'll get $30.5 million over the first three years of a six-year contract.

Let's interrupt for a second to ask the question: What recession? Nnamdi Asomugha will receive $45.3 million in a three-year contract. Oakland made the move preventing the All-Pro cornerback from having to be paid. Speaking of pay, Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden landed a $43 million, five-year contract with $22 million guaranteed.

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Go ahead and take another name off the list of potential impact free agents the Bears could have targeted to fill one of their several needs.

St. Louis announced it has placed the franchise tag on safety Oshiomogho (O.J.) Atogwe, meaning he's out of the picture. Atogwe was considered the top safety heading to the free-agent market but there are some scouts who don't believe he's in an elite category.

Bears running back Matt Forte blew past him on a long run at St. Louis during the regular season and considering the premium teams pay in free agency (see the $33 million, six-year deal Madieu Williams got in Minnesota last year or the $39 million, six-year deal Gibril Wilson got in Oakland for examples), missing on Atogwe might not be the worst thing that happens to the Bears in free agency. Yes, he'd be an instant upgrade over anything the team has but at what cost?

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Through the process of elimination, it appears Julius Peppers wants nothing to do with the Bears.

Darin Gantt of the Rock Hill (S.C.) Herald reports that the Carolina Panthers defensive end has a list of four teams in mind to be traded to if and when the franchise tag is placed on him. The team is expected to tag Peppers before Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline.

The Bears are not one of the four clubs.

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Free agency just lost a little bit of its luster.

Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome let it be known Tuesday that the Ravens will place the franchise tag on pass rusher Terrell Suggs if they cannot work out a contract extension with him before Thursday's deadline to tag players.

Cross Suggs off your shopping list.

That's OK, you say. Julius Peppers will be available.

The only way Julius Peppers is guaranteed to return to the Carolina Panthers is if they slap the franchise tag on him, a costly proposition that will run general manager Marty Hurney $17 million for 2009.

$17 million for one season.

Peppers wants no part of it. The defensive end announced through his agent Friday night that he has no desire to return to the Panthers.

"Julius is firm in his decision that he needs a change," agent Carl Carey told ESPN.com. "He feels that he can thrive in another system. While he has been selected to four Pro Bowls and designated as an All-Pro during his career, he feels that he has yet to develop to his full potential. This is the case of a great player who seeks to become an elite one."

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Julius Peppers category.

Julian Edelman is the previous category.

Justin McCareins is the next category.

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