Chicago Bears Free Agent Options: Outside Linebacker

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Jabal Sheard – 25, Browns (6’3 | 264): A former 2nd round pick and natural pass rusher who is stuck behind high-priced free agent Paul Kruger and 6th overall pick Barkevious Mingo in Cleveland.  Every time I watch the Browns I see Sheard putting pressure on QBs and he may be looking for more playing time outside of Cleveland.  Despite playing just over half of the Browns defensive snaps (57%), Sheard finished 2nd on the team with 24 QB hurries. He has a good bend around the edge, a quick burst off the line, and the closing speed to get to the QB. Sheard has always had the ability to rush the passer, but he improved significantly vs the run last season with the top grade on the Browns defense (9.2) in run support. He’s a balanced player who could win a starting job at OLB for the Bears and should be affordable even at a significant raise from the $1.6M Sheard made last season.

Sam Acho – 26, Cardinals (6’2 | 262): Max effort player and good locker room presence who was forced into more playing time than expected last season and held his own. Acho only had 2 sacks on the season but finished 4th on the team with 23 QB hurries despite only playing 44% of the teams defensive snaps. He’s not a great athlete with just average measurales across the board, but his hustle, intelligence, and quickness make him an effective pass rusher. Acho is just entering his prime at 26 years old and coming off his first taste of success in the NFL. Even if he only has a situational role as an OLB, Acho’s leadership in the locker room, off-field charity work, non-stop motor, and ability to contribute on special teams combine to make him far more valuable than the modest salary ($1.5M?) it would take to sign him.


Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

"Dan Skuta – 28 49ers (6’2 | 251): Favorite of new Bears DC Vic Fangio and was a special teams stand out before taking over for Aldon Smith when he was suspended. Skuta started 10 games overall for the Niners last year and had 5 sacks on the season. He has a few years experience in Fangio’s scheme and would be a good backup plan if the Bears internal options at the position (Jones, McClellin, Bass) don’t pan out. Skuta is also a big fan of Fangio, stating earlier this offseason that his decision to return the the Niners would be influenced by whether Fangio was retained. Part of his exact quote was: “I like Vic a lot. I like what he’s done, and I like his defense. So that’s going to mean a lot to me going forward”. The mutual feelings between Skuta and Fangio, his reasonable salary ($1.5-$2M), his special teams value, and the ability to rush the passer from the outside, make Skuta a solid free agent option. My Recommendation: With plenty of young OLB options on the roster (Jones, Bass, Washington, McClellin?) and a couple of high-priced vets with no where else to play (Allen, Young) in a 3-4, I don’t think the Bears will make a significant investment at OLB. I could see them adding an explosive pass rusher with one of their first 4 draft picks, but in free agency the only OLB move I see them making is adding a versatile depth player like Dan Skuta. He’s familiar with Fangio’s scheme, there seems to be some mutual respect between the two, and he will improve a bad Bears special teams unit."