Bears Free Agent Goals to be seen in NFC, AFC Championships originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Not sure if you’ve heard, but the Bears are expected to have the most cap berth in the NFL this offseason by a wide margin. There will be enough buying power for Ryan Poles to pursue his Bears roster overhaul in earnest. Considering the team ended the season on a 10-game losing streak to finish on a 3-14 record, they’re going to need it. Virtually every location on the depth map needs to be addressed as well. So if you’re playing Fantasy GM at home, you can dream up signings anywhere on the field. If you’re interested in locating one of the potential signers, here’s a watch guide for the AFC and NFC Championship games.
The Bears need to completely retool their line of defense, and they’ve indicated they want to do it from the inside out. If they don’t land Daron Payne, which is arguably the best DT set to come out, Hargrave would be another great option, although Hargrave is a few years older. He was an absolute force for the Eagles and seems to be getting better with age. Hargrave is coming off a career year with 11 sacks, 10 TFLs, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He also had a great 2021 campaign, earning Pro Bowl honors that year. Hargrave might be more of a nose tackle than three-tech, and three-tech is the more coveted position in Eberflus’ defense, but that shouldn’t matter. Hargrave would give the line a big boost.
Darius Slay deserves all the spotlight in the Eagles high school, but Bradberry more than holds his own on the opposite side of the field. He allowed a meager 45.3% completion rate that year when he was targeted and gave up just two touchdowns that year. For his efforts, Bradberry was named an All-Pro Second Teamer. Most importantly, Bradberry has been a ballhawk his entire career. As of 2016, he has 18 interceptions. If the Poles sign Bradberry, the Bears would feel pretty good about Jaylon Johnson and Bradberry locking borders and Kyler Gordon staying in the slot.
CJ GARDNER-JOHNSON – DEFENSIVE BACK
If the Bears decide they like Kyler Gordon more as an outside corner than a nickel corner, they could consider signing CJ Gardner-Johnson. Bears fans may remember Gardner-Johnson as the trash talker who talked both Anthony Miller and Javon Wims into throwing punches at him in 2020. That year, however, Gardner-Johnson cemented himself as one of the best defensemen in the league, who can play both safety and slot corners. CJGJ secured the NFL lead in 2022 with six interceptions.
It looks like the Bears want to re-sign David Montgomery and Montgomery wants to re-sign with the Bears. But that was the story with Roquan Smith last season and the two sides could never find common ground. If the same thing happens with Montgomery and the Bears don’t want to shell out to bring in Saquon Barkley, Miles Sanders could be an option. Sanders broke out in 2022 for 1,269 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns after a few statistical seasons in his first three seasons. But the lack of big numbers from 2019-2021 is mostly due to his lack of carries, not his lack of skill. Sanders has averaged just 160 carries a year during that time, so it’s not like he’s accumulated too much wear and tear on his body, despite carrying the ball 259 times in 2022.
McGlinchey has been a reliable right tackle for the Niners since taking the position in 2019. He played 94% of the team’s snaps in 2022 and gave up just 27 pressures in 562 passes, according to the PFF. Yes, Micah Parsons threw McGlinchey like a rag doll in this one snap that made its way through social media last weekend. That one replay against one of the league’s best defensive players is unlikely to fully upset the Poles on McGlinchey.
Ebukam isn’t a flashy defensive end like Nick Bosa, but he’s been a steady contributor to the 49ers. In his two seasons with the team, he has 9.5 sacks, 74 tackles and 12 TFLs. Additionally, he’s had at least one forced fumble in every year of his career since 2017.
JESSIE BATES – SECURITY
This signing may depend on Eddie Jackson’s health. Jackson had a resurgent season in 2022 but suffered a Lisfranc injury in Week 12. If he can progress well, expect him to play alongside Jaquan Brisker again. If not, Bates could replace Jackson’s ballhawking ability. Bates had four interceptions in 2022 and has 14 picks from 2018. He’s also doing well as a last line of defense and has had three 100-tackle seasons.
The Bengals’ ailing offensive drew a lot of attention when they traveled to Buffalo in the divisional round. The Bills’ defensive line played no part throughout the game, however, thanks in part to admirable play by the Cincinnati backups. Max Scharping was one of those and took the opportunity now that he was coming onto the market. We know Ryan Poles isn’t afraid to give attacking substitutes greater opportunities, and Scharping fits that bill.
ORLANDO BROWN JR. – LEFT DEVICE
If the Chiefs let Orlando Brown Jr. hit the market, you can bet Ryan Poles will try to bring him to Chicago. Brown Jr. has been one of the most reliable tackles in the NFL throughout his career and hasn’t missed a start since landing a starting job in Week 7 of 2018, his rookie season. He’s been a Pro Bowler every year since 2019 and would cement the Bears line in an instant. If the Bears sign Brown Jr., they could move Braxton Jones to right tackle where he could potentially take an even bigger step in his development.
When the Bears aren’t making a trade for a true No. 1 wide receiver this offseason, Ryan Poles, he’s happily fielding a group of talented, if not elite, passers. In this case, Smith-Schuster is a player that could come into play. Smith-Schuster was never able to replicate the production he had when Antonio Brown was lined up across from him, but he has nonetheless added value to the Chiefs this year as a reliable target. His 78 catches for 933 yards in 2022 aren’t staggering numbers, but they would have led any Bears pass catchers by a wide margin. Cole Kmet was the man to lead the Bears in both categories this year, and he finished with 50 catches for 544 yards.
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