Top Locations for Bears to Seek Assistance Beyond the NFL Draft
BY V. CARBONNEAU DECEMBER 2, 2023 (9:09 PM)
In the previous two free agency periods, the Bears focused on acquiring players to fill starting lineup gaps, often opting for short-term contracts due to cap constraints. They signed players like Justin Jones, Lucas Patrick, Nick Morrow, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Byron Pringle to address these needs. However, with more cap space available this year, the Bears had to be aggressive in free agency to address the positions where they fell short in 2022, resulting in the signings of Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, Andrew Billings, Yannick Ngakoue, and Nate Davis as immediate starters.
This year, with fewer starting positions to fill and a substantial budget, the Bears are likely to make fewer signings but target high-value acquisitions. Overthecap.com estimates they will have around $56 million available, possibly increasing to $70 million with veteran cap cuts, depending on decisions regarding cornerback Jaylon Johnson's contract extension. Given the improved talent level after three years of rebuilding, the Bears may even consider upgrading with free agents who surpass some of their current starters in skill.
While projections of available players may change, some players could become available due to cap cuts. For instance, there is speculation about Kansas City defensive tackle Chris Jones, who possesses qualities that align with GM Ryan Poles' vision. The addition of Jones, especially with the impending free agency of current Bears tackle Justin Jones, could be advantageous.
However, the Chiefs are not in immediate danger of exceeding the salary cap, and they might choose to retain Chris Jones. Other players may become available through cap cuts, creating opportunities for the Bears to bolster their roster. Teams like the Miami Dolphins, projected to be over the cap, might release valuable players such as center Connor Williams and defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, who could be beneficial additions. The Bears could also explore trades, like pursuing Dolphins safety Jevon Holland for a draft pick.
The New Orleans Saints, facing significant cap challenges, may see valuable players like Erik McCoy and Cesar Ruiz become available. These players could strengthen the Bears' offensive line. On defense, Malcolm Roach might be an option as an interior defender.
The Los Angeles Chargers, currently over the cap, could initiate a fire sale, potentially making players like Joey Bosa, Corey Linsley, and Derwin James available. The Bears could show interest in a center or safety.
In summary, the 2024 free agency period holds the potential for substantial changes for the Chicago Bears, with an emphasis on fewer but high-impact signings as they continue their rebuilding efforts and aim to improve their roster.