I fully expect the Bears to be the most active in free agency that they’ve been under Ryan Pace this offseason.
The other day I was on Craigslist and noticed they have a “free” section. Curious to see what I’d find, all wide-eyed and uneducated, I looked on. Scrap wood, televisions from the 90’s, and dirty couches that looked too foul for anyone to sit on plague this section of the site.
Then I had the rare occasion where I’d come across something that was useful … wooden pallets in excellent condition useful for something as big as warehouse storage and as small as home DIY Pinterest projects.
The Bears approach to free agency may be a little different than previous years as we’ll see Pace take more calculated risks. I expect a lot of cuts ($40-50 million worth) and plenty additions ($50-60 million worth). Why?
The Bears are in position to believe they can start winning now.
80 percent of the time in free agency, players are available for reasons you don’t want to be attached to; injuries, locker room cancers, off-field concerns or low on-field production. This is why free agents can spike their prices. It’s simple supply and demand business ethics.
Sometimes though, you can find those multi-purpose wooden pallets that serve you well in however you choose to utilize them. This year we need those type of players, and guess what? Those type of guys are available.
(I know. I know. Just hurry up and get to the list, right?) I believe the Bears, with exception to wide receiver, are one above average starter (at worst) to having a ”great” roster.
Below are my top 10 (in no particular order) free agents the Bears can (and should) target and why.
Trey Burton – TE
Burton is a fast “h-back” tight end, and also a great pass blocker that comes from a slightly similar offense that Nagy will run. He’s a true red-zone threat. With Adam Shaheen, the Bears could deploy a deadly two tight end set. As a third-stringer, the Bears can offer him decent money that the Eagles simply can’t.
Anthony Hitchens – ILB
Chicago could use another high-quality, consistent inside linebacker even though it’s not high on their priority list. He’d anchor the middle with Danny Trevathan and has experience at multiple linebacker positions. Hitchens could be the premium Swiss-Army Knife Vic Fangio gets rewarded with for returning to the Bears. He may follow Matt Eberflus to the Colts as his linebacker coach is becoming Josh McDaniels’ defensive coordinator.
Jordan Matthews – WR
Not a popular pick but could come to Chicago on a Markus Wheaton type of deal. If he can return to the level of play he had in Philadelphia, Matthews would be a very solid and inexpensive No. 2 receiver. Brice Butler could go here, but Matthews has backed up his talk with stats. Butler still has to prove a lot of people wrong.
Shaquill Barrett – OLB
This is the free agent I’m pounding my fist on the table for the hardest. Barrett is young, has a myriad of pass rush moves and he has a very high motor. He didn’t start much in Denver, but that is what has attracted me to him. In the seasons where he has started in a few games, Barrett averaged almost five sacks a season. Imagine what could happen should he join Fangio’s system and get a full time look at outside linebacker opposite of Leonard Floyd.
Bashaud Breeland – CB
This could get interesting. Breeland is a four-year starter and sticky corner who averages 15 pass break-ups and two interceptions a season. Could be another option to reward Fangio. Should the Bears (they should) re-sign Kyle Fuller and let Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper Sr. walk, the Bears secondary could be solidified by pairing Breeland with Fuller. He may not warrant premium cornerback price, but he’ll get close. He has potential to be the final piece to a secondary puzzle. Therefore, it may be worth the deep dive.
Avery Williamson – ILB
Should we not land Hitchens, Pace should still take another swing at inside linebacker. Williamson is the always-in-the-right-place kind of linebacker; the one you don’t hear about. That’s a good thing. Jerrell Freeman was supposed to be the final piece to “set it and forget it”. Now we have to hope (as he gets released) that his mental health is okay while we replace him.
John Brown – WR
“Smokey” is a burner alright. He’s a 4.3 40-yard dash guy and the speed shows on film, and is one of my favorite free agent receivers. After a down year in production due to missing five games, I still believe the Larry Fitzgerald pupil has his best football ahead of him. With his speed, strength and quickness he can hurt teams in the West Coast offense in the quick throws and take the top off of a defense in the spread. Thankfully, the Bears are running a scheme that utilizes both.
Allen Robinson – WR
Should he come off of his ACL tear okay and retain the ability to climb the ladder, Robinson would be exactly what the Bears need: a large-bodied receiver who draws double teams, which threatens defenses.
Andrew Norwell – G
Should the Bears want a better and younger option at left guard on the other side of Kyle Long, Norwell is the way to go. The All-Pro lineman would do a few things: stop Cody Whitehair from moving around the line (a quarterback’s consistency with a center definitely helps) and lock up the interior offensive line for the foreseeable future with Long already under contract. Pace would be smart to give the same money he’s giving to Josh Sitton to a younger more reliable option.
Chase Daniel – QB
What!? Yes, Chase Daniel. Chicago will need a backup quarterback, because I can guarantee that Mike Glennon won’t be wearing Navy and Orange, not with what he’s currently collecting next season. So why Daniel? Because he was the backup quarterback in Kansas City from 2013-2015. You know who else was in Kansas City? His quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy. Daniel is familiar with Nagy and his offense and almost makes too much sense to sign him to a three or four-year deal value deal to backup (and help teach) Mitch Trubisky. He’s only 31 and could lock up the backup quarterback position for a few seasons.
This isn’t Craigslist. While free is in the name, “free agents” aren’t free. However, the value you would get from all of these players is enormous. A big part of me wants the Bears to sign almost all of these guys.
In my estimated contract prediction, the Bears could make this happen with about $55 million.
With the anticipated cuts, cap increase and roll over, they’d still have about 20-30 million to move over into the season, which makes this list realistic. The “Help Wanted” sign is up and soon enough, we could see the Bears backing up a truck full of money to a yard full of wooden pallets (players) and find they’re in better shape than we thought.
Let’s just hope the Bears are in better shape for taking them.