BOURBONNAIS, Ill — Quarterback Jay Cutler has a new target and Roy Williams has a chance to redeem himself.
The former Pro Bowl receiver will try to re-energize his career in a system he knows well after signing a one-year deal with Chicago on Friday, one of several big moves by the Bears.
They also re-signed re-signed defensive tackle Anthony Adams and linebacker Nick Roach to two-year contracts, agreed to a one-year deal with former New York Jets defensive lineman Vernon Gholston and came to terms with their remaining unsigned draft picks.
Veteran free-agent center Olin Kreutz's status remained up in the air, but running back Matt Forte decided to show up for camp rather than hold out for a new contract.
In other words, it was a wild day for the Bears.
The most noteworthy move?
That would be signing Williams, who was officially released by the Dallas Cowboys the previous day, and Cutler seemed thrilled to have him.
"Heck of a player, a guy who's been in the system," Cutler said. "We wouldn't have to teach him that much."
A trade bust in Dallas, Williams will try to revive his career in a system where he had his greatest success. He excelled in Detroit when Mike Martz was the offensive coordinator there, and they'll try to work the same magic in Chicago, where the Bears are coming off a run to the NFC championship game.
Salary-cap issues led the Cowboys to release Williams this week, ending a run that will be remembered more for what they gave up to get him than for anything he did on the field. Dallas sent three draft picks, including a 2009 first-rounder, in a midseason deal with Detroit in 2008 and gave him a $45 million, five-year contract extension, thinking he would be their big-play threat and first-down machine.
That didn't happen.
He and Tony Romo never got in sync, and over 40 games, he caught 94 passes for 1,324 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Chicago could be a good match for him, though.
The Bears need a bigger receiver to go with Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett and Devin Hester — particularly after trading tight end Greg Olsen to Carolina on Thursday — and the 6-foot-3 Williams is that.
His history with Martz includes a Pro Bowl season in 2006, when he finished with 1,310 yards, and he has strong ties to Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake from their days at Texas. Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was also the head coach when Williams was in Detroit.
So in many ways, the Bears seemed like a logical fit.
"He's had some injuries," Cutler said. "I know he loves coach Martz to death. I know that him and Mike have worked really well together. He should be excited to come here."
Can he be the big receiver they need?
"Absolutely," Cutler said.
Hester was quick to praise Williams, too. And so was Forte.
"Whenever you get a veteran like that who's been in the league for a long time, it's a very positive experience," Hester said. "As receivers, we can pick his brain."
Forte said, "He's a tall receiver, the biggest receiver we have right now, and just another big target that Jay can throw to."
As for his own situation, Forte said he considered holding out. He's set to make $550,000 in base salary entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract and is looking for more, but he decided to show up for camp on Friday.
"(Holding out) was a consideration," he said. "I had to weigh my options. I thought about it, but like I said before, it never benefits a player or a team for somebody to hold out. It's not a good deal on either end. I kind of got my mind put at ease by (general manager Jerry Angelo). He had been in talks with my agent since the end of the lockout and even before that. He kind of said that a deal would be done. He assured us repeatedly that a deal would be done. Where I'm from, when somebody gives you their word, that goes a long way."
Forte has seen other running backs such as Carolina's DeAngelo Williams (five years, $43 million), New Orleans' Darren Sproles (four years, $14 million) and Miami's Reggie Bush (two years, $9.5 million) get new deals recently, not to mention the $12.5 million, four-year contract the Bears gave Chester Taylor got last season. He knows his stock is higher after running for 1,069 yards last season.
Now, he's expecting a new deal soon. How soon?
"What (Angelo) told me was that a deal will get done," Forte said. "He said I am a priority of his. What that means . hopefully that means soon. There's no telling with that, but 'priority' to me means soon."
The Bears have gotten quite a bit done so far.
They signed new punter Adam Podlesh on Wednesday while overhauling the tight end position by trading Olsen to Carolina, releasing Brandon Manumaleuna and agreeing to a deal with Matt Spaeth.
On Friday, they brought in Gholston, the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft who was released in March after three disappointing seasons. They also retained two of their own key free agents on defense in Adams and Roach, whom coach Lovie Smith insisted is the starter at strong side linebacker.
They also added another free-agent receiver from Dallas, luring in Sam Hurd with a three-year deal. He is also a special teams contributor and figures to fill the void created by the loss of Rashied Davis.Comment on this story
The Bears also locked in their remaining unsigned draft picks on Friday, agreeing to four-year deals with first-round pick Gabe Carimi (offensive tackle), along with second-round pick Stephen Paea (defensive tackle) and third-rounder Chris Conte (safety). The Bears had already reached agreements with fifth-round pick Nathan Enderle and sixth-rounder J.T. Thomas.
Chicago also brought in four undrafted free agents on Friday — Kansas defensive end Jake Laptad, North Texas tight end Draylen Ross, Purdue running back Dan Dierking and Western Illinois offensive tackle Mike Lamphear.