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Bears have several targets in free agency

Caption
(AP file photo)
Bears players including cornerback Charles Tillman (left) and middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (right) could be in Bourbonnais for training camp by the end of the week after the NFL lockout ended on Monday.

CHICAGO – The Bears will report to training camp Friday after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith signed off on a 10-year collective bargaining agreement Monday afternoon.

The Bears' first training camp practice will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais. The team will conduct another practice at noon Sunday before conducting its first padded practice Monday afternoon.

A full training camp schedule is expected to be released Tuesday, the Bears announced.

The players’ formal approval was the final hurdle toward ending the 136-day lockout. Goodell and Smith announced the deal during a joint news conference in Washington, D.C.

"It's been a long time coming," Goodell said. "Football is back, and that's great news for everybody."

Next will come a free-agent signing frenzy unlike any other in sports history.

The NFL told clubs that they could start signing 2011 draft picks and rookie free agents on Tuesday. Conversations with veteran free agents also could start Tuesday, and their signings could begin Friday.

More than 1,000 players could be up for grabs in the next few days as NFL general managers scramble to fill their 90-man rosters for training camp. The Bears and other teams can start negotiating with players Tuesday and sign veteran free agents starting at 5 p.m. CT Friday.

The timeline for the week is as follows:

• Teams can open their facilities starting Tuesday.

• Also on Tuesday, teams can start to negotiate with free agents (but not sign them).

• Also on Tuesday, teams can make trades and sign rookies (both drafted and undrafted).

• On Thursday, teams will be allowed to release players on their current roster.

• Ten teams apiece will open training camps on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The New York Jets and Houston Texans would open camp Sunday.

• On Friday, teams will be able to sign veteran free agents starting at 5 p.m. CT.

Clearly, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo and his colleagues will be busy.

The Bears have 47 players under contract and five rookie draft picks on their roster. That leaves 38 remaining roster spots, many of which could be filled by undrafted rookie free agents.

Meanwhile, the Bears have at least 18 players with expired contracts, some of whom could return.

The Bears’ top free agent is veteran center Olin Kreutz, who has started 183 games since 1998. Kreutz is a leader in the huddle and the locker room, and the Bears lack a reliable backup center.

Other Bears free agents include defensive tackle Anthony Adams, linebackers Nick Roach and Pisa Tinoisamoa, safety Danieal Manning, cornerback Corey Graham and punter Brad Maynard.

In free agency, the Bears likely will look to bolster their offensive line, defensive line, secondary, linebackers and wide receiver corps.

Some of the free agents who have been linked to the Bears in recent weeks include Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Davin Joseph, Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss.

By starting camp Friday, the Bears would have 15 days before their first preseason game Aug. 13 against the Buffalo Bills. The Bears’ regular season opener, which is Sept. 11 against the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field, is 48 days from Monday.

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