The Bears have already made some major decisions this offseason with veteran running back Matt Forte leaving the organization, and more changes are expected to come this offseason as general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox look to build Chicago into a contender in 2016. The Bears finished in last place in the NFC North last season and have some of their top-tier players heading to free agency this offseason.
The biggest name among their upcoming free agents is wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, but the team is reportedly expected to keep him as they are looking to sign him to a long-term contract. Even if the Bears are not able to negotiate a long-term contract with Jeffery, they will use the franchise tag to keep him in Chicago. While Jeffery seems almost certain to return to Chicago next season, tight ends Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller's futures with the team are uncertain.
The Bears want Miller back next season, but he is still expected to test the open market, according to ESPN's Jeff Dickerson. "What happens at this stage in the game is you understand the reality that a lot of times these guys have to hit the open market to set their value," Pace said, via ESPN. "I understand that's the case with a lot of these positions. That's the necessary place that we're in right now. We like Zach, I don't want to go through every one of our unrestricted free agents, but he's a guy we'd want back and we're negotiating with him."
While the Bears are hopeful they can retain Miller, they don't seem to have Bennett in their long-term plans, and Chicago's front office is "presumed" to be willing to listen to trade offers, according to Dan Wiederer of The Chicago Tribune. The Bears do not have to make an immediate decision on Bennett and will likely look to continue to shop him in the lead up to the 2016 NFL Draft, as they look to acquire compensation for letting him go.
Miller won't be the only unrestricted free agent the Bears let test the open market, as linebacker Shea McClellin is also expected to see what's available in free agency. The Bears want McClellin back next season, but they will have to wait to see what his market value is and determine if they can afford to retain him. "We like Shea," Pace said. "We feel like his arrow is still pointing up, especially at the inside linebacker position."