Free agency is a week away, and the Chicago Bears have quite the shopping list. Being in a complete retooling mode, and with new schemes on the horizon, they have plenty of needs in both free agency and the draft.
Tuesday, March 10th is when the initial feeding frenzy will begin. Teams will be falling all over each other to sign the top players available at each position. This is often when overpaying comes into play, but if you see someone you know will help your team immediately, then you better be aggressive and go after them.
Free agency usually falls into tiers. There are the first level premier guys, the second wave of more under-the-radar players and then the June 1st cuts. The Bears need to be active in all three this year. We could write a five page article on all of the guys they should go after, but for this story, let’s stick with the first list of phone calls that Ryan Pace should be making.
The biggest glaring needs are defensive line, outside/inside linebackers and defensive backs. Again, there are needs everywhere in all phases, but the defense was a complete laughing stock the last two seasons, and the switch to a 3-4 requires different types or personnel.
Let’s start with the linebacker positions. In a 3-4, we need both OLB’s to rush the passer and set the edge, and ILB’s to play the run and guard the middle of the field. There are some obvious choices out there, but sadly some of them come with injury concerns.
The first ILB they should go after is Brandon Spikes.
He is a tackling machine, a tone setter and a natural leader. He may not be the absolute best in pass coverage, but he owns the middle of the field. If they cannot lock him down, another player to look out for is Mason Foster(Bucs). He has the skill set to be an every down player, is great in coverage and is only 25 years old. Getting both of these guys would set us up nicely while future draft picks learn the system. And if we can only grab one, I think that Christian Jones can lock down the other ILB spot.
There are two OLB’s the Bears should be going after right away as well. Pernell McPhee(Ravens) is an up-and-coming who has been used all over the field. He could excel in a Fangio scheme and could be moved around. The next player we should be talking to is Brooks Reed(Texans). I love the way this guy plays, and he would look good setting the edge in a Bears uniform.
The defensive line needs some help too.
Odds are we will have new starters in every spot over the next two seasons. In a 3-4, we need someone to take on blocks in the middle. There are a few players who can do that very well. Dan Williams (Cardinals) would be a perfect fit for what we are trying to do. He can hold down the middle, and is a smart, tough player. Jared Odrick (Dolphins) should be another option. He is a little more versatile, and could get the job done too. The Bears will also need defensive ends.
Karl Klug(Titans) and Jarvis Jenkins (Washington) are both worthy of a spot, and I imagine we will be talking to them. Another player to keep an eye out for here is Greg Hardy (Panthers). If he gets reinstated, and the Bears can live with his past, he is a complete monster on the field.
And now for our favorite, the defensive backs. I don’t have to tell you what the safety play has been like for the last ten years. It is time to fix that. The obvious best choice is Devin McCourty(Patriots). He would be the perfect fit for what we need from our center fielder. But he will be a tough grab. My next option would be Da’Norris Searcy (Bills). He is pretty solid across the board and a very good tackler. I also like Kendrick Lewis (Texans) as a sleeper here. As for cornerbacks, I like what the Bears have in Kyle Fuller. But after that, the Bears are weak at the position and could seek help via free agency.
In a 3-4, the Bears will need to look at players that are good in coverage. Byron Maxwel l(Seahawks) should be the obvious first target. He would set the tone back there. Next up should be Kareem Jackson(Texans), I really like what he has done in Houston and the potential upside is there. Walter Thurmond (Giants) may be worth kicking the tires on as well.
Alright, that should get us started on Tuesday. Lots of work to do. Ryan Pace, it’s game time. Let’s see what you got.