Bears Defensive Free Agent Big Board [Potential Contract Figures]
1. DE Greg Hardy [Carolina] 26 years old, 59 tackles 15 sacks, 6 years 96 million/50 guaranteed [Mario Williams]
The premiere free agent and a 26 year old player with 26 sacks in the last 2 seasons. Add to the production that he is 6’4″ 290lbs and plays the run well and rushes from the inside he would be my #1 target and I would mortgage things to get him.
2. DT Linval Joseph [NY Giants] 26 years old, 59 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 years 34 million/12 guaranteed [Desmond Bryant]
This may surprise some people, but I think Joseph has everything that the Bears defense is needing right now. Size, at 6’4″ 323lbs. he has the size and length the Bears were missing. Run stopping, Joseph routinely averages over 45 tackles and had 60 tackles last season. Pass rush, Joseph brings a power rush that gets him into the backfield and disrupts the pocket. Versatility being the key as Joseph can play the NT in a 4-3 and in 3-4 looks.
3. S Jairus Byrd [Buffalo] 28 years old, 48 tackles, 1 sack, 4 Ints, 5 years 42 million/18 guaranteed [Dashon Goldson]
Byrd is in the conversation for best safety in the game and despite missing time he puts up incredible numbers. Byrd is a true FS that would allow the Bears to vary coverages, blitz more, and would force opposing QBs to think twice about coming into the middle of the field.
4. DE Brian Orakpo [Washington] 28 years old, 60 tackles, 10 sacks, 1 Int, 6 years 62 million/32 guaranteed [Terrell Suggs]
Young, explosive, and consistently producing close to double digit sacks the only real question mark about Orakpo is health. Orakpo can stand up and rush, he can put his hand down and rush and he brings the versatility that the Bears are looking for. Orakpo is impressive transitioning from speed to power.
5. DE Michael Bennett [Seattle] 29 years old, 31 tackles, 8.5 sack, 5 years 35 million/15 guaranteed [Kamerion Wimbley]
The connections are obvious, the Bears have a huge need at DE and happen to have his brother on the team. Bennett would be an excellent addition to the Bears, but it needs to be at the right price point. Bennett is versatile and disruptive. He can rush from the inside and outside, which adds to his value, but he is not an elite pass rusher and you cannot pay him to be at 29.
6. S T.J Ward [Cleveland] 28 years old, 112 tackles, 1.5 sack, 2 Ints, 5 years 35 million/12 guaranteed [Michael Griffin]
The Bears need at safety was obvious every week of the 2013 season, and Ward would be a huge upgrade, but he is not Byrd. Ward is more of an in the box SS that can cover the short and crossing routes and makes a ton of tackles. Ward used in that role could be a nice addition to a Bears defense that wants to be more aggressive and attacking, something Ward does well.
7. DE Michael Johnson [Cincinnati] 27 years old, 56 tackles, 3.5 sack, 1 Int, 5 years 40 million/20 guaranteed [Paul Kruger]
Johnson has everything you look for physically, and at times he produces to that level. Coming off an 11.5 sack season he posted 3.5 sacks, which does not tell the entire story, but it does keep him from being an elite player. Johnson still graded out well according to PFF. The upside here
8. DE/DT Lamaar Houston [Oakland] 27 years old, 69 tackles, 6 sack, 4 years 35 million/17 guaranteed [Darnell Dockett]
Houston is a tough player to assess as he has been bounced around on some bad Raiders defense and while he has 3 technique size at 6’3″ 300lbs. he plays DE. This season he had 6 sacks, which is a career high for him so I am not sure that he can be a pass rushing force in a 4-3. His best role would be as a LE that rushes from the DT spot on 3rd down.
9. CB Alterraun Verner [Tennessee] 26 years old, 57 tackles, 5 Ints, 5 years 50 million/24 guaranteed [Cortland Finnegan]
I do not think that CB will be a huge area of concern in free agency after Tim Jennings was re-signed, but if the Bears could get Verner the conversation would have to happen. A young, secure tackler that also creates turnovers will probably get priced out of the Bears range.
10. DT Arthur Jones [Baltimore] 28 years old, 53 tackles, 4 sack, 5 years 25 million/9 guaranteed [Brandon Mebane]
This is one of my dark horse free agents. He has the size at 6’3″ 320lbs. to play all over a defensive front, he comes from a winning team and winning defense and he generates interior pressure. Jones might be a nice versatile value signing for the Bears.
11. CB Vontae Davis [Indianapolis] 26 years old, 46 tackles, 1 Int, 5 years 50 million/26 guaranteed [Brandon Carr]
Davis profiles as a #1 CB and while he has been plagued by some inconsistency he could be a nice signing and give the Bears a player that can match up with other teams #1 WR and allow Tim Jennings to do what he does best, which is bully the #2 WR. It would be a lot of money to invest in the CB position.
12. DT Clinton McDonald [Seattle] 27 years old, 35 tackles, 5.5 sack, 1 Int, 4 years 22 million/7 guaranteed [Kendall Langford]
Another interior pass rush that interests me a lot. McDonald does not start for the Seahawks, but he plays a lot and is a physical inside pass rusher. He is a disruptive player that also plays the run pretty well despite not being a huge player. McDonald may be a nice value signing that can revamp the defensive line like Martellus Bennett did at TE last season.
13. S Donte Whitner [San Francisco] 29 years old, 73 tackles, 2 Ints, 5 years 27.5 million/12.5 guaranteed [Charles Godfery]
Whitner has the attitude that the Bears need to get back on defense and in the secondary. Whitner is a big tackler and a physical hitter who makes up for his coverage liabilities with physical play. What I like most about Whitner is that he seems to be the QB of the 49ers back end, which the Bears could desperately use.
14. DE Everson Griffen [Minnesota] 27 years old, 27 tackles, 5.5 sack, 4 years 22 million/12 guaranteed [Brian Robison]
Griffen has not had many opportunities to start in Minnesota and despite that he has put up some decent pass rush numbers. Griffen has some production, a ton of athletic ability, and he seems to be the type of player that is simply waiting for an opportunity to start.
15. DT Pat Sims [Oakland] 29 years old, 54 tackles, 2 sack, 4 years 18 million/5 guaranteed [Sen’Derick Marks]
Sims is not pretty, in fact he might have one of the worst bodies in the NFL, but he is big and physical and can come in and provide a presence at NT that the Bears are missing. He will not do much as a pass rusher, but he can allow the Bears to move to 3-4 looks by occupying 2 interior blockers.
16. CB Walter Thurmond [Seattle] 27 years old, 33 tackles, 1 sack, 1 Int, 4 years 20 million/6 guaranteed [Derek Cox]
The drug suspension worries me a little about Thurmond, but he is a physical press man CB coached up in the Seattle system. He has experience inside and outside and could give the Bears are starting CB across from Tim Jennings.
17. DE Jason Worilds [Pittsburgh] 26 years old, 63 tackles, 8 sack, 6 years 36 million/8 guaranteed [Conner Barwin]
I like Worilds more than most people and I think that he could have value to the Bears as a 3-4 OLB or a LEO DE. At 6’2″ 262lbs. he does not have ideal size, but he does have a stout and powerful build and he has really started to develop as a pass rusher, combining power and a motor to create pressure. He is not a perfect scheme fit, but he can give the Bears a wrinkle they do not have right now.
18. S Chris Clemons [Miami] 29 years old, 92 tackles, 1 Int, 4 years 20 million/9 guaranteed [Daniel Manning]
A solid tackler with good range, Clemons is not a dominant safety like the first 2 guys listed, but he is an upgrade over Chris Conte and would allow the Bears to have a safety that can be relied on.
19. CB Brent Grimes [Miami] 31 years old, 60 tackles, 4 Ints, 3 years 17 million/8 guaranteed [Sean Smith]
Grimes is a better player than where I have him ranked, but he is over 30, injured a lot, and he is undersized which would be tough to pair with Tim Jennings.
20.DE Justin Tuck [NY Giants] 31 years old, 63 tackles, 11 sacks, 1 Int, 5 years 33 million/17 guaranteed [Cam Wake]
Tuck is another player that falls into the age and money category. I would like the Bears to look at signing players that are ascending. We would not be getting Tuck’s best years and while he is still producing I think the cost is going to make it less than an ideal scenario.
21. DT Tony McDaniel [Seattle] 29 years old, 53 tackles, 2 sack, 3 years 11 million/5 guaranteed [Sammie Lee Hill]
If the Bears want to get bigger and more physical on the interior DL without making a huge financial investment they could sign the 6’7″ 315lbs. McDaniel who has shown himself to be a very competent run defender that often a little pass rush with his length. He would be a nice signing to assist the run defense if the money goes into the back end of the defense.
22. LB Akeem Jordan [Kansas City] 29 years old, 67 tackles, 2 years 6.5 million [Rey Maualuga]
The Bears need a veteran MLB that will allow Jon Bostic more time to develop, or allow him to move outside full time. Jordan is a steady veteran who does not miss tackles and can step in and provide the veteran presence that the Bears need. I think D.J Williams will come back, but if he does not.
23. LB Joe Mays [Houston] 29 years old, 67 tackles, 1 sack, 1 year 1.35 million [D.J Williams]
The Bears need a run stuffing MLB that can play 1st and 2nd downs and come off the field in passing downs. Mays has played for LB coach Reggie Herring and brings a ton of physicality and attitude to the defense.
24. DT Randy Starks [Miami] 31 years old, 49 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 years 25 million/10 guaranteed [Broderick Bunkley]
Starks is a far better player than this ranking, but the combination of age and cost makes me want to look at younger players who are still ascending. Starks would be a great signing if we could get him on a 1-2 year deal instead of a more long term deal.
25. DE Robert Ayers [Denver] 29 years old, 29 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 4 years 22 million/12 guaranteed [Brian Robison]
Ayers is not a top level free agent, but he is long and athletic and he plays very hard. He would be a nice complimentary end that could attack against single teams using his burst and length to influence the QB. Ayers would have to be a complimentary signing to someone higher on the list.