Chicago Bears Free Agency Wish List: 3-4 Outside Linebackers

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /
1 of 3
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Bears are projected to have around $50 million in available cap space even after the $14.955 franchise tag applied to Alshon Jeffery. That number factors in plenty of variables including the trade or release of tight end Martellus Bennett and other dead roster weight of players, who won’t be on the squad next season. The ten million or so needed for the rookie signing pool is factored in as well, bringing the available to just under $5o million.

The Bears would need about double that number to fill all of the holes in the starting lineup on both sides of the ball. GM Ryan Pace has been adamant about spreading the money around and not putting all his eggs in one basket, which seems like a sound strategy given the multiple needs at almost every position on the roster. I’ve used the estimated cap space and Pace’s reluctance to splurge on one or two high priced free-agents to come up with a list of players I think the Bears should target this off-season.

It’s not a top-heavy or even relatively deep free agent class, but there were some tough choices on which players the Bears should target at their positions of greatest need. At those positions when the decision was toughest, I’ve added a note or two about my second choice at the position. To keep under $50M I’ve used estimated free agency numbers from a variety of sources, but mainly my own gut feeling on what the players will receive on the open market.

Before you rip me in the comments, please understand that this is a wish list and not a prediction of who I think the Bears will sign. I think it’s realistic for the Bears to come out of free agency with 4-5 new starters, but that has more to do with the quality of the Bears current starters than the quality of the free agency class. I’ve broken the signings down by position of need and players at those positions who are players I think could make an impact, be solid starters, or depth players with starting potential, and finally long-shots who could start or not even make the final 53-man roster.

Wish List – Defensive Line

Wish List – Inside Linebacker

Bears Free Agent Wish List:

Outside Linebacker

The Bears transitioned to a 3-4 defense last year under DC Vic Fangio which caused most of the Bears defenders to learn new positions and new responsibilities. It worked surprisingly well for some while others quickly disappeared from the Bears defensive rotation.

Former 4-3 DEs Willie Young and Lamarr Houston were both coming off ACL injuries, making the transition even more challenging, but by the second half off last season they were both effective OLBs and led the Bears in sacks with eight from Houston and seven from Young. Free agent signing Pernell McPhee looked like the best OLB on the roster the first half of the season with 6.5 sacks, but a knee injury and more attention from opposing offenses sapped his production in the 2nd half.

So on paper the Bears have a few decent pass rushers at OLB but all three players are primarily power rushers. They beat blockers with a combination of power, hand-play, and hustle. Many of their sacks came on plays when the Bears secondary gave the Bears OLBs 5-6 seconds to get to the QB. The Bears lack an explosive edge-rusher who can beat tackles with speed and get to the QB regardless of how the defensive backfield plays. It’s a glaring need on the roster and one that the Bears should target in both free agency and the draft. On the next page is my wish-list of who I think the Bears should target at the 3-4 OLB position.

Next: Play-Makers