The news we have all been waiting for finally arrived on Friday. The Bears traded the first overall pick to the Carolina Panthers for a haul, including the 9th pick, the 61st pick, a 2024 first, a 2025 second, and WR DJ Moore. The move allows the Bears to be much better prepared for free agency and the draft, focusing on scouting and definite positions of need. Moore immediately slots in as the Bears top WR, and the Bears can still nab a top OL or DL prospect in the top 10. Plus, the Bears now have stockpiled extra picks in 2024 and 2025 allowing them to easily build on their young core, which could easily include a top 5 pick from Carolina in 2024. But how does the move affect the Bears free agency plans? Let’s take a look:
Bears Free Agents:
- Nathan Peterman, QB
- Tim Boyle, QB
- Byron Pringle, WR
- N’Keal Harry, WR
- Dante Pettis, WR
- Equanimeous St. Brown, WR (extended)
- David Montgomery, RB
- Ryan Griffin, TE
- Khari Blasingame, FB (extended)
- Trevon Wesco, TE
- Michael Schofield, OG
- Dieter Eiselen, OG (ERFA tendered)
- Sam Mustipher, OC
- Riley Rieff, OT
- Dakota Dozier, OT
- Dane Cruikshank, DB
- Josh Blackwell, DB (ERFA tendered)
- Breon Borders, DB
- DeAndre Houston-Carson, DB
- Nicholas Morrow, LB
- Matthew Adams, LB
- Joe Thomas, LB
- Javin White, LB
- Mike Pennel, DT
- Armon Watts, DT
- Angelo Blackson, DT
- Patrick Scales, LS (extended)
Some of these players have already been extended as expected. As for the rest, I don’t expect a lot of them to stay. David Montgomery is the key one, as the Bears may explore an upgrade at RB, but at this rate with all the franchise tags, they could pivot to bringing him back. Harry could return as depth, I don’t expect any of the OL or DL to return. They probably will keep a couple of the LBs just because the room is so barren right now. Also DHC is always a candidate to return.
A week ago, WR would have been at the top of this list. Now, it is far from a priority overall, and especially in free agency, with it being a weak crop of free agent receivers. DJ Moore is better than any receiver that could have been had on the market. Now, the focus shifts to positions that are lacking a starter, then positions that require a clear backup. The first category includes C, RT, DE, DT, and LB. The second includes RB, G, and CB.
C: Ethan Pocic, Ben Jones, Garret Bradbury, Wes Schweitzer, Bradley Bozeman
There aren’t any top tier centers available, but there are some quality solid starting centers as listed here. All except Jones are under 30.
OT: Orlando Brown, Mike McGlinchey, Kaleb McGary, Jermaine Eluemenor, Isaiah Wynn, Andre Dillard, Jawaan Taylor
The Bears can easily fix their question mark at RT with any of these guys. All of them are young and starting caliber and would make things much easier for Teven Jenkins and Braxton Jones.
DE: Marcus Davenport, Yannick Ngakoue, Arden Key, Justin Houston, Samson Ebukam, Leonard Floyd
The DE market isn’t too strong, but the Bears need to get at least one of these players now that they are not guaranteed Will Anderson.
DT: Dre’Mont Jones, Javon Hargrave, Dalvin Tomlinson, Poona Ford, Khalen Saunders
The DT market however is strong. Even with Da’Ron Payne getting tagged, there are three potential star DTs available, and it would be an upset if the Bears did not land one of them. Plus there are solid depth options.
LB: Bobby Okereke, Anthony Walker, Azeez Al-Shaair, Germaine Pratt, Drue Tranquill, TJ Edwards
Multiple LBs here have a lot of experience under their belt and have played for Matt Eberflus. None of these guys are as good as Roquan Smith, but will be much cheaper so they can recreate his production in the aggregate.
RB: Miles Sanders, Rashaad Penny, Kareem Hunt
To me, Montgomery is probably the solution here. If not, the Bears would aim for a more explosive pass catcher, which each of these guys are, though they all have consistency or injury issues.
G: Nate Davis, Ben Powers, Isaac Seumalo
With Whitehair still on the roster and Jenkins playing great, guard isn’t the biggest concern right now, but all 3 of these names would be a tremendous get, especially Nate Davis.
CB: Jamel Dean, Jonathan Jones, Cameron Sutton
The Bears could probably use a veteran cornerback to pair with their young guys. It would allow Gordon to stay in the slot, make life easier for Johnson, and push Vildor to top reserve.
After Ryan Poles swung the trade to land multiple premium draft pick and DJ Moore, I can’t wait to see what he has in store for the rest of March and April. Expect the Bears to get a lot better very fast.
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