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The Bears are taking a cautious, measured approach to free agency. It may seem boring compared to what other teams are doing, but the Bears still have a decent amount of salary cap space left and are in position to pick up multiple cap casualties. They also have enough cap space to take on money in a trade.
Speaking of trades the New Orleans Saints are rumored to be willing to trade any player outside of QB Drew Brees and WR Brandin Cooks.
The Saints proved it late last week with a trade of promising 22-year old WR Kenny Stills for a 3rd round pick and salary cap albatross LB Dannell Ellerbe ($8.25M). Stills just about doubled his catches in his 2nd season going from 32 receptions as a rookie to 63 last year with 931 yards. He showed flashes of dominance last year with 2 100 yard+ games including 163 yards in week 13. Stills is one of the more promising young receivers in the league and as a 5th round pick is only making $585k this season. If the Saints were willing to deal Stills, then it’s possible anyone outside of Brees & Cooks are available. Bears GM Ryan Pace was the Saints Director of Player Personnel last season, so he should have a better idea than most where the talent lies on the Saints roster.
Despite their 7-9 record, the Saints are only a year removed from an 11-5 team and still have the majority of the talent that got the team to the playoffs in 2013. The 2014 season was a disaster for a team predicted to contend for the Super Bowl, but if they are truly rebuilding it is a unique opportunity for the Bears to take advantage with a GM who has inside knowledge about the entire roster.
Another aspect that makes the trade an even better fit is that the Saints ran a 4-3 base more often last season instead of the 3-4 base they ran more often in 2013. The Bears are making the opposite switch from a 4-3 to 3-4 base this year. Both units will run multiple schemes under innovative DCs like Rob Ryan and Vic Fangio, but in theory both teams should have players that aren’t ideal fits for their new base scheme. So which player(s) will Ryan Pace target from his old organization? Here are a few potential options:
DE Cameron Jordan (6’4 | 287 | 4.78): Was an elite DE in the Saints 3-4 scheme back in 2013 with 14 sacks, 63 QB pressures (2nd only to JJ Watt), and a 26.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus with was the 4th best grade among 3-4 DEs. Jordan was much less effective as a 4-3 DE with just 8 sacks, 41 QB pressures and a -1 grade from PFF. It’s pretty clear that Jordan is a better fit in a 3-4 scheme. Jordan, a former 1st round pick, is only 25 so is just reaching his prime. His price in a trade would be high, but his cap hit of just under $7M and pending free agency in 2016 will lower the cost a bit.
Jordan is the type of player that the Bears can build their 3-4 scheme around and is worth a significant investment. There are only a few 3-4 DEs who are truly impact players and Jordan is one of the them. Bears DC Vic Fangio built a dominant 49ers defense around DE Justin Smith and there isn’t a closer player to Smith in free agency or the draft then Cameron Jordan.