With low expectations already locked in for this Bears season, let’s look again to the future. The Bears have long been a franchise pressed up against the cap, largely unable to assert themselves as major players in Free Agency. This is not going to be true for the 2023 season. We are currently projected to have $88 million- and that’s before the $17 million that a pre-June 1st cut of Robert Quinn and (not saying this is a foregone conclusion) Eddie Jackson would bring. That is by far the most in the NFL. Hopefully a Roquan Extension will eat into that number some, but the possibility of $105 million for the Bears to play with is tasty. Here are ten names that could fix some of the Bears most immediate problems, with cost estimates.
WR DK Metcalf
What else is there to say? The Bears committed some resources to the position this offseason, but should DK become available all of that should be trumped. We have the money, and with the Seahawks potentially having to resort to a full rebuild we may have an opportunity. DK’s build brings a new element to the Bears receiver room, one that can meld easily with our Green Bay imported scheme and deep ball chucking QB. Front office frugality is the only hindrance, though it’s worth noting DK’s father Terrence spent 7 seasons on the Bears- perhaps a good word could be put in?
4 yr/ 100 million (former Ole Miss teammate AJ Brown’s exact deal)
WR Allen Lazard
If DK were to return to Seattle or effuse to sign on in Chicago, there’s another receiver of similar size hitting the market next spring. Lazard has played a key role in the run game while only modestly contributing as a pass catcher. Regardless, he’s a starter with experience in this exact scheme. The Packers just invested big time draft picks at receiver and may want to clear space.
3 yr/ 25 million
TE Dawson Knox
Knox is a budding star at the position who excels both at blocking on the wing and scoring touchdowns (9 in 2021)- the Bills have seemed reticent to fully trust him and may find themselves in too tight a cap scenario to retain him. He just as likely may be retained, but until then the prospect of a tight end who can actually produce in the red zone (read: not Cole Kmet) is intriguing.
3 yr/ 30 million
OT Jack Conklin
The Bears need an established, high floor tackle pronto. With Conklin experienced in a variation of the Shanahan-ish scheme in Cleveland, he can slot right in a right tackle and leave an open competition for the left side between Larry Borom, Teven Jenkins, Braxton Jones and perhaps a Day 1 or 2 rookie?
3 yr/ 40 million
OL Elgton Jenkins
This one seems very likely. The Packers have shown a knack for developing starter level play out of late round picks. Jenkins has been integral to their operation up there, but they could perhaps lean on this skill to throw out big contracts elsewhere- namely on the receiver market and defense. In would swoop the Bears, for whom Jenkins would be an upgrade at every spot on the line.
4 yr/ 56 million
OL Dalton Risner
Another versatile lineman who could move from Nate Hackett to Luke Getsy. He would be an instant long term right guard solution, or a replacement at left guard for Cody Whitehair. The line requires an influx of proven talent- why not throw as much as possible at quality starters here.
3 years/ 25 million
DE Marcus Davenport
Despite his finally flashing in 2021, year 4, the Saints have drafted his replacement in Payton Turner. The 9 sacks last year may drive his price up, but the allure of a DE as built as Davenport controlling the POA in this new Bears 4-3 system is too high. The Colts have shown a preference for players with this strength and length during Eberflus time there.
4 years/ 45 million
DE Bradley Chubb
Chubb would have to convert down to D-end, but he was perhaps always better suited for that role anyway. He’s struggled with injuries and expectations, but the talent is still there as a multi tool, physical pass rusher. The Broncos have had success at finding talent late in the draft on the edge and could maybe decide to cut Chubb loose.
4 years/ 45 million
DT Da’Ron Payne
Payne has been a role-playing run stopper on a dominant Washington front for the entirety of his rookie contract. He should jump on the chance to escape that franchise for what should be a full-time job in Chicago- the DT market is, as usual, weak, so he may cost more than he “should”. Luckily, we have the money.
5 years/ 60 million
LB Anthony Walker
Walker is a heady and physical linebacker who can clean up on run downs better than anybody currently on the roster. The linebacker room is at an inflection point; he can run a skillful tandem with Roquan smith or, god forbid, provide a veteran bridge at MIKE if the Bears fail to resign Roquan.
2 years/ 8 million
Signing every player on this would cost ~$118 million/year- that is probably not going to happen. But bringing in Metcalf, Jenkins, Chubb, and Payne would instantly upgrade this team on both sides of the ball with tens of millions to spare for linebacker depth, safety depth, and tight end depth. There are some true stars in our reach- let’s go get them.