The new league year and free agency period in the NFL is less than a week away as the Chicago Bears prepare to build on the success of their 2018 season. Unlike last season, Chicago will have one of the smaller cap spaces to work with in free agency.
Although they will be out of contention for the top free agents, there will be talented role players available to the team that can help in their Super Bowl quest for 2019.
General manager Ryan Pace has done a great job building the Bears roster to where the team does not have a glaring weakness or needs at any of their positions. He will be looking to add players who provide depth and specialize at a specific task at the position. Whether being able to add a better pass-catching running back, a wide receiver with size, or a veteran safety to provide experience at the position, the Bears are not in a dire need to overpay for a free agent.
Here is a list of players that the team could target when the league year opens on March 13th:
Running Back T.J. Yeldon
Yeldon has been the Jacksonville Jaguars’ backup running back to starter Leonard Fournette the last few seasons. He was the team’s starter in 2015 and 2016 before being utilized in a pass-catching role.
He has two seasons of 50 receptions or more and caught four touchdown passes in 2018. He would be an ideal fit for Matt Nagy’s offense which uses running backs in the passing game more so than other offenses.
Other than running back Tarik Cohen, the remaining three Bears running backs combined for just 29 receptions.
Wide Receiver Dontrelle Inman
Dontrelle Inman would be a good fit for the Bears because of his large frame providing the Bears with a bigger catching radius. Inman playing outside would also allow smaller receivers Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller to play from the slot.
Both Gabriel and Miller struggled at times last season when lining up outside facing press coverage from opposing cornerbacks. Both would struggle at time separating from coverage due to their small size. Inman has familiarity with Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky as he was with the team in 2017. He caught 23 passes for 338 yards in eight games. Last season, he played with the Colts where he caught 28 passes for 304 yards including three touchdown catches.
Edge Rusher Shane Ray
The 2015 first round draft pick of the Denver Broncos could be a sleeper signing for a team looking to add depth at the edge rusher position. Ray has been injured the last few seasons as he only appeared in 11 games in 2018, but has proven that he could assist as a pass rusher when healthy. In his first two seasons in the league, he averaged six sacks.
He would be a good rotational player on a Bears defensive line that features Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, and Bilal Nichols. Ray could achieve the same success seen by linebacker Aaron Lynch who was the benefactor of a deep Bears defense.
Defensive end Cameron Wake
Cameron Wake could be an experienced veteran looking to sign with a team who has a good chance of competing for a Super Bowl title. The Bears could catch a break and get Wake at a lower cost due to do the depth at the defensive end position in free agency and the draft.
Wake could be persuaded to play for one of the best defensive units, who with him, could be the best pass-rushing team in the league. last season with the Dolphins, he recorded six sacks in 14 games and has had five seasons of double-digit sacks. A defensive line of Wake, Goldman, and Hicks would be the best 30 fronts in the league as Wake could an increase in sack opportunities.
Safety Earl Thomas
Safety Earl Thomas is another defensive talent that could be affordable to the Bears because of depth at the safety position in free agency. Thomas finished the 2018 season on injured reserved after breaking his leg midway through the year. If the Bears are unable to re-sign safety Adrian Amos, Thomas could be a high-quality replacement if the team wants to sign him to a one year prove it deal.
He would be added to a secondary that intercepted 21 passes last season. Since 2015, Thomas has 12 interceptions with the Seattle Seahawks. Playing with the Bears, he will get a chance to prove himself nationally as the Bears are expecting to play in several nationally televised games.