After spending $126 million on Jay Cutler last offseason it’s hard to imagine the Bears make much of a splash in 2015 free agency. While Ndamukong Suh would certainly help hide some holes on Chicago’s defense, the hundred million dollars the team would likely have to spend on him simply doesn’t make the Bears much better for the present or future. The team has far too many problems to make another Julius Peppers-like signing this offseason. Regardless, with over $29 million in cap space Chicago will have to be judicious and resourceful with their free agency decisions.
Top Defensive Ends:
1. Jerry Hughes:
The former first round pick has seen a career resurgence in Buffalo, recording 19.5 sacks in the past two seasons after posting just 5.0 sacks in his first three seasons. If he decides to walk teams with 4-3 defensive schemes will presumably fight over the 26-year old defensive end.
2. Greg Hardy:
After recording 15.0 sacks in 2013 Hardy was forced to miss nearly all of the 2014 season because of domestic abuse charges. He will certainly be a valuable addition to whichever team he signs with for they will surely be getting him below market value, however, the baggage and negative publicity that accompany the signing make it not worth it for the Bears.
Top Defensive Tackles:
1. Ndamukong Suh:
Quite possibly the best player to enter free agency since Peyton Manning, Ndamukong Suh will immediately improve the pass rushing and run stopping wherever he plays. After the Julius Peppers signing backfired for the team, it’s hard to imagine the front office would try to go after Suh.
2. Nick Fairley:
On the other hand, I would love to see the Bears make a move to try and sign the other former Detroit Lion defensive linemen in free agency, Nick Fairley. At 6’4” 308 lbs. Fairley is one of the larger tackles in the league, he’s basically the same size as Suh (6’4”, 305 lbs.), and would be a welcome addition to a Bears defense that has lacked intimidation for years.
3. Terrance Knighton:
Hopefully the Bears can reunite John Fox with at least one of his former players, and no player on the market would help add toughness more to this Bears defense than Knighton. At 6’3” 331 lbs., “Pot Roast” as he’s called, is about as big as one can be at defensive tackle as the 28-year old would surely help clog the middle on a Bears defense that has struggled against the run in recent years.
1. Justin Houston:
The Chiefs decided to tag the elite pass rusher, and wisely so after he finished 2014 with 22.0 sacks. However, with Houston now on the books for over $13 million, questions now arise as to whether or not the team can afford to keep fellow outside linebacker Tamba Hali. The two would make over $25 million combined if both remained on the team in 2015.
2. Brian Orakpo:
The Bears should be in the market for a quality and versatile outside linebacker and Brian Orakpo fits that build. Durability issues have prevented Orakpo from reaching elite status in recent years, but make no mistake the 28-year old linebacker remains a dangerous addition for any defense.
3. Brandon Graham:
The 2010 first round pick has proven to be a quality starting linebacker in the NFL capable of playing in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. The former Michigan Wolverine should get plenty of suitors after the Eagles decided to bring in linebacker Kiko Alonso.
1. Darrelle Revis:
The Patriots will do all they can to resign Revis, but at $25 million his cap hit next season makes him virtually impossible for the team to bring back on another one year deal. It is likely the Bills, Patriots, and Jets will fight over this elite corner as his market is simply too rich for the Bears’ blood.
2. Brandon Flowers:
After his surprising release from Kansas City last offseason, Flowers proved his value in San Diego, stabilizing a Charger secondary that struggled to stay healthy all season. The 2013 Pro Browler has proven that at 29 he can still be a valuable contribution.
3. Byron Maxwell:
Hard to argue against the talent of the secondary in Seattle. Maxwell started 13 games for the top ranked passing defense in the NFL and should be due for a hefty pay raise. At 6’1” he would be a valuable addition at cornerback for any team.
1. Devin McCourty:
McCourty will be one of the most heavily recruited free agents this offseason should he decide to leave New England. The converted cornerback and former first round pick is as versatile a player a team can have in the secondary.
2. Rahim Moore
The final Bronco featured in this post, and another player the John Fox would be wise to reunite with. Moore is a solid against both the run and pass and with the recent struggle of Chicago safeties, the Bears should really take what they can get.