Chicago Bears – 2016 Potential Free Agent Targets (Defense)

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

The Bears should have over $50 million in cap room this off-season, which would give them the ability to sign a couple potential play-makers. I’m not advocating free agency as the answer to fixing the 2016 version of the team because I still think they are a couple of good drafts away from being a consistent contender, but the Bears could add a couple of impact pieces if they are smart with their cap space.

Ideally free agency is used to add complementary players around a team’s drafted core. Obviously the Bears are far from an ideal situation, but they had some success in free agency last off-season with Pernell McPhee (before he got hurt at least) and also some useful pieces like CB Tracy Porter, C Will Montgomery (again before injury), and DE Jarvis Jenkins.

Of course, historically most free agent signings don’t work out as planned. There is usually a reason that teams let players go and often teams pay a high price before figuring out why. The Bears saw a bit of that this season with S Antrel Rolle (3 yrs / $11.25M), CB Alan Ball (1 yr / $3M), and WR Eddie Royal (3 yrs / $15M).

Contending teams aren’t built by spending money on free agency; they are built by years of good drafting and player development occasionally supplemented by smart free agent additions. There are exceptions, but that’s the way teams like the Packers, Patriots, and Seahawks continue to be competitive every year. An elite QB also helps…

Today I’m going to focus on defensive free agents that could be a good fit for the Bears both on the field and financially. The Bears have been pretty clear that they are going to spread their $50M+ over multiple free agents as opposed to one or two big-ticket signings, which is probably a good idea considering all the holes they have on both sides of the ball. It’s also why you won’t see the biggest free agent names like OLB Von Miller, DE Mohammed Wilkerson (even with broken leg), and CB Josh Norman on this list.

A lot will change before free agency officially starts on March 15. Teams will re-sign players to long-term deals, some players will get the franchise tag, and there will probably be some news or injuries (like the one to Mohammed Wilkerson) that affect free agency values between now and March. As of today, these players are all available and I think could fill significant holes for the 2016 Bears.

It’s an early off-season list of players that stand out to me as possible targets for the Bears on the defensive side of the ball. It’s ordered by potential value to the Bears and I included a wide range of players from top-tier free agents to players who won’t make much more than veteran minimum. Ideally the Bears will spread their $50M+ on a few moderately expensive play-makers and some cost-effective players with upside.

*I’ll have my offensive free agent list up in the next couple of days

*I will also be doing a more in-depth free agent breakdown by position later in the off-season when we have a clearer view of who is officially available.