Chicago Bears Free Agent Updated Wish List – Defensive Line

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

DE Nick Fairley, Rams – If Hicks decides to go to the Lions for some reason, that would leave the Bears with limited options at the 5-tech DE position. The fact that the Bears let useful DE Jarvis Jenkins leave for a minimal $2M per year, makes me think (hope) that Pace has at least a back-up plan in place if they miss out on Hicks. Nick Fairley has the talent to make the back-up plan even more effective than signing Hicks, but he also comes with significantly more question marks.

It seemed that Fairley has played the best games of his career against the Bears, so maybe I am biased but as Bears fans we have seen Fairley dominate at times and look almost unstoppable when he wants to. He has beaten both Bears single and double teams with ease at times. The talent has always been there for the 6’4, 308 pound, former 13th pick overall in 2011. At 28 Fairley is a couple years older than Hicks, but is a similar player with elite power, acceleration, and the strong hands to toss blockers out of his way when motivated.

Motivation has been the problem throughout Fairley’s career. At times he has had issues keeping his weight under control, and with his work ethic, attitude, and motor. Despite the potential negatives, at times Fairley looks like one of the best D-linemen in the NFL. Check out this link if you forgot how good Fairley has looked at times against our Bears.

Fairley started 30 games over his first four seasons with the Lions but was forced to take a one-year, make-good deal with the Rams last off-season and to his credit he took advantage of it. He played less snaps than he was used to in Detroit on a stacked Rams d-line, but Fairley had one of the best seasons of his career.

It’s possible that Fairley is better off as a rotational d-linemen than a full time starter but Vic Fangio and the Bears like to rotate d-linemen anyway and Fairley could be very effective as 5-tech or NT on passing downs. The talent is there for Fairley to be as good as any d-linemen in the league and maybe the humbling of not getting a long-term deal and the coaching of Vic Fangio could finally unlock Fairley’s significant talent and elite potential. The Bears players would need to forgive Fairley for this cheap a** hit on Cutler though:

DE Jared Crick, Texans – Started all but one game for the Texans at DE over the last two seasons and is a solid, if unspectacular, run stopper. Crick has had just 5.5 sacks over the last two years, but does get a respectable amount of pressures, has 146 career tackles and has a knack for batting down passes with 13 over the last four seasons. Life was easier playing across from JJ Watt than it will be anywhere else, but the former 4th round pick (21012) is talented and only 26 so fits into the profile Pace has targeted so far. Crick would be a significant upgrade over the Bears DEs last season and give them a reliable run-stopping DE with a non-stop motor.

NT Terrance Knighton, Redskins – “Pot Roast” Knighton was a dominant force in the middle of the Broncos d-line in 2013 & 2014, but wasn’t the same player after leaving for the Redskins on a one-year deal last season. Bears HC John Fox was able to get borderline elite production out of Knighton as a run-stuffing NT and the Bears could use a back-up for promising 2nd-year NT Eddie Goldman.

If the Bears bring in a guy like Hicks or Fairley, both of those players are big enough to give Goldman a breather at NT but teams can never have enough quality d-linemen and the Bears still need a few more. If Fox can get Knighton back to his 13-14 form, the Bears could have two impact players to rotate at nose tackle. Knighton is coming off a down season, but still was an above-average run stopper and the talent is there for Knighton to be valuable if his effort level is.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

DE Tony Jerod-Eddie, 49ers – The Bears reportedly had interest in signing Jerod-Eddie last off-season, but he stayed with the Niners for a better chance at playing time. It didn’t work out great for either team as Jerod-Eddie only started two games for the Niners and the guy the Bears signed instead, Ray McDonald, was kicked off the team before playing a single game.

Jerod-Eddie has ideal size (6’5 | 300) and athleticism (4.96 40-time) but has never produced on the field like you’d expect for a guy with his skill-set. He is only 26 though and was a development project of Bears DC Vic Fangio while he was with the Niners.

Jerod-Eddie still has the ability to be an impact player at DE, but sloppy technique and an inconsistent effort level have held him back. Reuniting him with former coach Fangio could work out well for both sides. Jerrod-Eddie is a restricted free agent, but the Niners made the lowest possible tender which gives the them a chance to match a Bears offer, but won’t cost the Bears any draft picks in compensation if they out-bid the Niners for Jerod-Eddie.