The 5 Toughest Decisions the Chicago Bears Will Have to Make This Offseason

Ross Read@@RossReadContributor IIIJanuary 20, 2014

The 5 Toughest Decisions the Chicago Bears Will Have to Make This Offseason

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    The Chicago Bears have already knocked out some tough decisions. They gave Jay Cutler a long-term deal and decided to stand behind Mel Tucker for at least another season. 

    Still, tough calls remain. There are many holes on defense, and the Bears have a lot of aging veterans to make a tough call on. 

    Once they get past their own players, then they have the question of new talent in the NFL draft. Here are the five biggest decisions facing the Bears this offseason. 

Should the Bears Release Julius Peppers?

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    Last season was a subpar year for Julius Peppers. The 12-year veteran had just 7.5 sacks on the year, his lowest output since 2007. 

    Peppers still has two more seasons left on the contract he signed back in 2010. Per Spotrac, he carries a $13.9 million base salary for 2014 with an $18.2 million cap hit. 

    The Bears were able to restructure Peppers' deal last season, but it will be hard to save substantial money on his 2014 salary.

    They will have to make the tough call of either releasing the future Hall of Fame defensive end or keeping him around for another year. Given his declining output, they will likely release him. 

How Long Should the Bears Extend Henry Melton?

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    Henry Melton is still only 27 years old. He's coming off a torn ACL but figures to make a full recovery. 

    The Bears were absolutely pathetic at defensive tackle once Melton went down. The easy and smart move would be to bring him back at a reduced rate. He won't get what he wanted before the injury, but he could still be just as productive. 

    There lies the question. How long do you bring him back for? Do the Bears try and strike gold and get him on the cheap for three or four years, or do they look to give him only one or two? 

    A short deal could burn the Bears if he reaches his Pro Bowl level again, but the franchise also doesn't want another Tommie Harris situation on its hands.

    Two or three years might be an area where the Bears and Melton can come to an agreement. 

Does Devin Hester Still Have a Role on This Team?

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    Over the last two seasons Devin Hester has only one touchdown return. He had six combined the two seasons before that. 

    Hester is still a dangerous return man, but at what cost? There's no real market to go off of when it comes to a one-trick pony, and he will be 32 a quarter of the way into next season. 

    A roster spot has to be given to a guy who just returns kicks. This takes away from another receiver, corner or maybe a safety. When injuries hit, that spot becomes more precious. 

    Hester did set a career high in kickoff returns and yardage this year, but that was because the team had a bad defense. This is a moot point if he's back to taking to the house, but is he really worth 52 kick off returns and no touchdowns? 

Target a Position or Draft the Best Available Player in the First Round?

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    General manager Phil Emery has proven he's not afraid to go against what everybody is predicting or thinking. 

    Shea McClellin, Kyle Long and even Alshon Jeffery in the second round were all surprise picks. Two have worked out well, and the jury is still out on McClellin. 

    This makes the 14th overall pick in this year's draft a complete enigma. Mel Kiper Jr. made news in Chicago when he tabbed Timmy Jernigan (Insider access required) as the pick in his latest mock draft. 

    Kiper's pick almost guarantees Emery will go in another direction. Does he opt for another defensive tackle like Ra'Shede Hageman from Minnesota or a completely off-the-radar tackle like Aaron Donald from Pittsburgh

    Maybe Emery opts for an out-of-the-box pick like defensive end Scott Crichton from Oregon State. Only Emery knows, and at this point, he probably has no idea. 

Should the Bears Bring Back Charles Tillman?

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    Charles Tillman has been a durable and dependable player in Chicago. The 11-year pro seemed to have found a fountain on youth a couple of years ago, making two straight Pro Bowls in 2011 and 2012. 

    Then last year happened.

    Tillman played in only eight games. He hadn't played in less than 14 games in a season since his second year back in 2004. 

    Now, he'll hit the free-agent market. The Bears have already invested in Tim Jennings, prompting a big question: Can the Bears reach an agreement with Tillman, and do they even want him back? 

    The Brian Urlacher saga showed everybody that Phil Emery is willing to separate history from the future. Expect the Bears to allow Tillman to test the open market and request him back on their terms and their terms only.