Chicago Bears – 2016 Potential Free Agents (Offense)

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago 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.

Free agency can be a good way to add some important play-makers that the team can build around though as we saw with Pernell McPhee (before he got hurt at least) and also some useful complementary pieces like Tracy Porter, Will Montgomery (again before injury), and 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…

In 2015 the Bears offense finished 21st in the league in yards per play which doesn’t sound great unless you consider that the Bears played about half of their season without their top three WRs, their top TE, and 2-3 of their expected starters on the O-line. The addition of Kevin White and probable re-signing of Alshon Jeffery should give the offense a boost next year as should a healthy O-line, but they could use an influx of talent through the draft and free agency.

Today I’m going to focus on the available offensive 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 Russell Okung, Kasim Osemele, and Cordy Glenn on this list.

I posted my defensive free agent targets last week.

Free Agent Targets (Offense)

OT Kelvin Beachum, Steelers – Tore his ACL in 2015 which will hurt his free agent value quite a bit, but before his injury was playing like one of the best left tackles in the league. Beachum is still young at 26 and should have a few years left as a top-tier left tackle if the injury heals properly.

If the price isn’t ridiculous, Beachum is well worth the injury risk as it’s pretty hard to find good blind-side tackles. Signing Beachum would also allow the Bears to move Charles Leno Jr to a swing tackle role, which would give them additional depth at the position in case injuries strike again or Beachum’s recovery takes longer than expected.

The Bears may consider Leno Jr a potential starting left tackle in 2016 which would probably keep them from spending the significant cap space it would take to sign Beachum, but if they have questions about Leno Jr’s long-term viability at the position then Beachum should be an option. He would also be a considerable upgrade at left tackle barring a huge spike in performance and consistency from Leno Jr in 2016.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

OG Brandon Brooks, Texans – The former 3rd round pick in 2012 has been a three year starter for the Texans but finally played up to his immense potential this past season. Brooks is a massive O-linemen (6’5 | 345) with natural agility and the power to be a mauling run blocker. His pass pro technique could use some work, but he’s so wide that he makes it hard for rushers to get around him and has a very strong initial punch.

At 26 years old, Brooks is still developing but showed enough this season that he could potentially be a Pro Bowl caliber guard and a huge asset in the run game for the next couple of years. A Brooks / Kyle Long combo on the right side could become a force to be reckoned with.

OT Ryan Harris, Broncos – Versatile, veteran tackle who started 15 games at right tackle for the Chiefs in 2014 and 16 games at left tackle for the Broncos in 2015. Harris, 30, is probably just an average starter at this point in his career, but he would provide competition for Leno Jr on the left side and ideally be a valuable reserve with the ability to fill in at either tackle position should something happen to Kyle Long or Leno during the 2016 season.

It’s also possible Harris could move inside and compete for a starting gig on the other side of Matt Slauson. Harris would be an upgrade over either Ducasse or Omameh if the Bears don’t bring in a starting caliber guard or provide important depth at the tackle position if they do.