-- The Bears did not tender safety Anthony Walters the required one-year, $1.43 million contract required to secure his rights before free agency, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. What it means: This was expected, as the Bears could sign a starter for approximately that much money, and Walters was a special teamer last season. Don't rule out Walters' return to the Bears at a cheaper price.
--On March 9, the Bears re-signed defensive tackle Nate Collins to a one-year contract. What it means: Coming off an ACL tear that cost him the final 11 games of the season, Collins knew he wouldn’t have significant leverage or a surplus of suitors on the open market. So he opted to remain with the Bears under defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, with whom he has plenty of familiarity. Collins bolsters the depth at defensive tackle. But his signing wasn’t expected to impact the Bears’ efforts to re-sign Henry Melton.
-- The Bears agreed to a one-year contract with former Saints center Brian de la Puente on April 6. What it means: de la Puente was signed to back up Roberto Garza, and he immediately tops the list of possible successors to the 35-year-old. Garza is to the point of his career where he annually reassesses his desire to keep playing, so it's wise for the Bears to consider who will eventually replace him. de la Puente, who turns 29 in May, provides experienced depth, having started 44 of 48 games for the Saints over the last three seasons. Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer knows de la Puente well from their time together with the Saints. The Saints were willing to part with de la Puente, and the open market produced only a one-year minimum contract for him, which is an indication of how other teams evaluated him. Perhaps Kromer can continue to develop him.
-- The Bears agreed to re-sign swing tackle Eben Britton to a one-year deal on April 4. What it means: Re-signing Britton deepens the offensive continuity to include one of last season's key reserves. Coach Marc Trestman at his media breakfast at the NFL owners' meetings praised Britton's versatility and knowledge of different positions. That provides some insurance in case the Bears' good health on the offensive line doesn't carry over from last season. Don't undervalue how important it was for the Bears to start the same five linemen in all 16 games last season. That said, Britton's impact this season will depend on the offensive line's collective health and whether the team's tight end depth (or lack thereof) requires him to repeat his role as a sixth-eligible lineman. The Bears hope to find a more complete tight end to back up Martellus Bennett, either in the later rounds of the draft or a priority college free agent. That would alleviate the need for Britton to serve as an extra blocker. After all, he's not a pass-catching threat, and the Bears would prefer that element of unpredictability and versatility from a sixth blocker.
-- The Bears terminated the contract of veteran wide receiver Earl Bennett after he declined a pay cut. What it means: The Bears created $2.45 million in salary cap space for 2014 and also a void at No. 3 receiver. Second-year receiver Marquess Wilson has general manager Phil Emery's confidence, but the seventh-round pick is unproven after only two catches for 10 yards as a rookie. The Bears consider Wilson a natural catcher and smooth runner, and they believe he is quick and decisive enough to beat press coverage. Newly signed free agent Domenik Hixon is expected to compete, but he had only seven catches for 55 yards last season for a Carolina Panthers team on which the receiver position was not a strength.
-- Quarterback Josh McCown signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The contract is worth $10 million with incentives potentially pushing it up to $15 million at its maximum value. What it means: The Bears will be searching for a new back-up quarterback with McCown skipping town for much more money and an opportunity to start, McCown also reunites with former Bears coach Lovie Smith in Tampa and will see if, at age 34, he can continue to success he had last season in Chicago. McCown was terrific in five starts and two relief appearances last season. Whether that was mostly due to the offensive system of head coach Marc Trestman and the ability to play with Pro Bowl playmakers Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte, is up for debate. But McCown will be able to test his skills in Tampa, with the Bears now needing to find a new reliable No. 2 behind Jay Cutler. Jordan Palmer, the No. 3 for the second half of last season, signed a one-year deal with the Bears before free agency began. But that doesn't mean GM Phil Emery won't continue exploring the open market for a more experienced veteran.
-- The Bears agreed with receiver/special teamer Domenik Hixon on a one-year deal.What it means: Hixon, whose contract has a maximum value of $830,000, provides depth at receiver and also has experience returning punts and kickoffs, although he did neither for the Panthers in 2013. He had only seven receptions for 55 yards last season on a Panthers team for which the receiving corps was not a strength. Receiver Eric Weems played a similar role for the Bears last season. Could that make him redundant, especially considering Weems' $1.6 million cap number for 2014? Not necessarily. Weems would count $500,000 in dead money if the Bears released him, so they'd save only $1.1 million in that scenario. As for Earl Bennett, the Bears don't have another proven No. 3 wideout.
-- The Bears re-signed tight end Dante Rosario. For a second time. What it means: Rosario is returning on a one-year, low-risk deal. The Bears originally had announced his signing Feb. 27, more than a week in advance of free agency. But due to the fine print in Rosario's 2013 contract, a minimum-salary benefit deal, the Bears weren't technically eligible to re-sign Rosario until the opening of the new league year March 11. So formally, they had to release Rosario, a transaction that initially piqued curiosity. Rosario's return gives the Bears another special teams cog and role player, a candidate to compete for the No. 2 tight end job behind Martellus Bennett. Rosario's current contract is also a minimum-salary benefit deal. He is due to earn $855,000 this season and will count $570,000 vs. the salary cap.
-- The Bears released running back Michael Bush. What it means: With Pro Bowler Matt Forte demanding such a heavy workload in Marc Trestman’s offense and Bush proving ordinary at best in the time he did see on the field, the Bears made a shrewd business transaction. Releasing Bush cleared $1.85 million in salary cap space for 2014 and provided the team $2.85 million in cash savings. It also means the Bears will have to search for options to back up Forte in the backfield.
-- Quarterback Jordan Palmer and the Bears agreed to a one-year deal. What it means: Palmer will compete for the backup role behind Cutler. He spent the final 10 weeks of last season with the Bears and also part of the preseason, so he'd have an informational advantage over a draft pick or a free agent signed from the outside. But Palmer has played in only four regular season games in his career and none since 2010. He's a riskier backup option than McCown, but also was much cheaper.
-- Former Bear Devin Hester found a new home in Atlanta, agreeing to a three-year deal to join the Falcons. What it means: It was assumed since last season ended that the Bears would be allowing Hester to move on in 2014 so it shouldn't have been a shock when the team announced in the week before free agency began that they wouldn't be re-signing Hester. To set the record straight, Hester's simply contract expired and was not renewed. He was not released by the Bears, who simply didn't want to make a huge investment in a player at the tail end of his career and only contributing on special teams. Now Hester will chase the NFL's career record for return touchdowns from Atlanta, needing just one more to break his current tie with Deion Sanders. The Falcons hope to find use for Hester outside of special teams, looking at him as a possible weapon as a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver. The Bears, of course, will be searching for new options for punt and kickoff returns. Receiver Domenik Hixon, signed in March, could be in the mix. Chris Williams, signed at the end of last season, will compete for that role, too. And the Bears could seek out another player or two with return skills in May's draft.
-- The Bears signed former CFL long snapper Chad Rempel to a three-year contract on April 7. What it means: Rempel represents some insurance in case long snapper Pat Mannelly decides not to continue his career. Mannelly hopes to play a club-record 17th season following offseason hip surgery, and he is expected to decide this spring whether to do so. By signing Rempel to join Brandon Hartson on the long snapper depth chart, the Bears are insuring they'll have competition at the position in case Mannelly unexpectedly retires.
What’s left to do...
• Find additional depth in the secondary.
• Determine the future of unrestricted free agent linebacker James Anderson, not expected to re-sign in Chicago.
• Determine the future of unrestricted free agent linebacker Blake Costanzo, who's not expected to re-sign in Chicago.
• Determine the future of free agent safety Anthony Walters, who was not tendered a restricted free-agent contract.
• Determine the future of unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Landon Cohen, who's not expected to re-sign in Chicago.
• Pursue potential candidates to be the back-up quarterback to Jay Cutler.
• Search for a backup to running back Matt Forte.
• Determine the future of unrestricted free agent long snapper Patrick Mannelly.
• Determine the future of unrestricted free agent offensive tackle Jonathan Scott.