Chicago Bears Free Agency
The big story this week was Bears free agency. The Bears addressed their biggest need, DE, with the signing of Lamarr Houston from Oakland. After their top choice Michael Bennett re-signed with the Seahawks, Houston was the next best guy available and fills a major need for the Bears at that position. And while YouTube highlight reels can make anyone look good, you’ll see he at least has the potential to make the Bears’ pass rush formidable again.
The other big news came late on Friday with the re-signing of Charles Tillman. While the Bears talked about how much they wanted Tillman back, it always seemed to me he was one of Lovie’s guys who was not happy with the coaching change and would take the opportunity to leave this off-season – and it was not surprising that his first visit was to Lovie in Tampa. What I didn’t expect was Tillman to leave without a deal in place (or at least an offer). But Tillman back to the Bears is a good thing. He is still one of the best corners in the game and a turnover machine. With so many other moving parts on the Bears defense, having the CB core back with he and Tim Jennings is a comfort, and if he can stay healthy it benefits all of the other positions in front of him. They still need some CB depth but I see them looking to the draft for that.
The Bears’ losses were Josh McCown to the Buccaneers and Julius Peppers to the Packers. While I hoped McCown would come back to Chicago, it was fair that he was given a chance to see what was out there. And while I am happy he landed where he did, Lovie Smith has never had a good eye for quarterbacks, and they just made McCown, a 34 year old journyman quarterback their starter. No matter how well he played last year, I would not be happy if that was who Lovie brought in to be the starter for my team. Peppers’ departure was a given after a pitiful season and his epic cap hit number. But what makes this news exciting is that he is going to division rival Green Bay. And if Peppers is anywhere near as effective as he was last year, Jay Cutler will be safe and sound for at least two games this season.
The other FA signings the Bears made this week were safeties M.D. Jennings and Ryan Mundy (who will compete for the starting job and will please-dear-god get it over Chris Conte), Defensive End Willie Young (from the Lions who will likely start on the other side of Houston) and special teamers Domenik Hixon and Jordan Senn.
Chicago Bulls – Weekly record: 3-1
The Bulls are in the midst of a challenging home-stand, which started last Sunday against the Heat (a game I attended, and one of the most exciting Bulls games I’ve ever been to). They went on to win 3 of 4 this week, with big wins also coming against the red hot Rockets and the Kings. The lone loss was a let down game against the Spurs – but the big story this week has been Joakim Noah playing out of his damn mind. This week Noah has averaged 17 points, 10.2 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2.7 blocks. Dating back to last year’s playoffs, Noah has become the leader of the team and the face of the franchise, and I think he will continue to be even after Derrick Rose returns (whenever the hell that’ll be). And though he says he doesn’t like the MVP chants from the crowd in games, he has very quickly become Chicago’s favorite current athlete.
Chicago Blackhawks – Weekly Record: 3-3
The hockey season is winding down and if the Blackhawks are looking to make a run at back to back Stanley Cups, now is the time to turn it on. And with home ice so important, the Blackhawks sit in third place in their division and 5th in the West. If there is one thing we have learned about them over the last two seasons, its that they are a totally different team with Marian Hossa. And they proved this again on Sunday when Hossa returned for injury and got them 3 points (1 goal and 2 assists) in a 4-1 victory over the Red Wings. With 14 games left in the regular season – 2 of which against the Blues who they have had trouble with all year – they need to start winning some games and making up some points and playoff seeding.