Chicago Bears Free Agency: Who’s Left?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /
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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports /

DE Nick Fairley, Rams – The best free agent left overall (imo) and fits a need as the Bears only have one starting caliber defensive end on the roster right now. Fairley has the size, strength, and burst off the line to be a force in multiple spots on the d-line.

Fairley turned 28 in January, but was a rotational player last year and missed 18 games over the first four years of his career, so there should be plenty of tread left on the tires. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, but when he’s motivated and healthy Fairley is one of the most powerful d-linemen in the league. He’s never reached his massive potential and is running out of time, but there is a chance Fairley could deliver the best years of his career over the next few seasons.

I think that’s worth the $3-$5M per year it may take to sign Fairley. He’s coming off his most effective season and showed more than enough talent with the Lions and Rams to be an impact player with the Bears, but his inconsistent work ethic and potential off-field issues may make him an unlikely choice for John Fox and the Bears.

S Reggie Nelson, Bengals – He’s going to be 33 by the start of next season, but Nelson did lead the league with eight interceptions last season and made his first Pro Bowl. The Bears have been avoiding older players all off-season, but can Nelson really be worse than Antrel Rolle was last year? Nelson’s age should keep his price tag reasonable and the Bears have plenty of cap space left.

Nelson’s range isn’t what it once was, but he came into the league as a first round pick who ran a 4.25 40 at his Pro Day. Granted that was in 2007, but he was an elite athlete in his prime and his coverage skills as a safety have gotten better every season. I’d bet Nelson, even a step or two slower than last season, is still more mobile than Antrel Rolle was in 2015.

Nelson is also a solid presence against the run as well and occasional big hitter. He was one of the better safeties in the league last year and would be a significant upgrade at safety over Rolle.

CB Patrick Robinson, Chargers – Was a first round pick for the Saints while Bears GM Ryan Pace was running their drafts, but struggled to hold down a starting role during his rookie contract. He showed flashes of an elite closing burst and ball skills, but got burned way too often and was too inconsistent to be on the field regularly.

Robinson signed a one-year deal with the Chargers in 2015 and had his best and most consistent season of his career. According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson was a top 30 cornerback and only allowed more than 30 yards receiving in one game last season. Robinson has the size (5’11, 192) to play outside and the quickness to play inside which could make him a valuable part of the Bears sub-packages in 2016.

DT Terrance Knighton, Redskins – Had his best overall season in 2014 with John Fox’s Bronco defense before hitting free agency in 2015. It earned Knighton less than I thought it would with just a one-year contract ($4.45M) from the Redskins last season, but he was again effective when on the field.

The Bears need a back-up for Eddie Goldman at nose tackle and Knighton has proven that he can make an impact in limited snaps the last two seasons. Fox’s familiarity with Knighton makes this an easier decision and he shouldn’t cost more than three-four million as a valuable backup for Goldman.

Next: More Quality Free Agents