According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune the Bears may be looking to deal some veteran players who are on the roster bubble. I’ll break down the players rumored to be on the trading block, their chances for making the team, and what the Bears may be able to get in return.
OLB/ILB Christian Jones – Of the three players on this list, Jones has the best shot of making the final 53-man roster. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2014 by the old Bears regime, Jones has been moved all over the field. He showed promise as a weak-side OLB in the Bears old 4-3 scheme, then struggled badly as a 3-4 ILB last season, before being moved to OLB this preseason.
Jones has mostly played with the 2nd and 3rd string defenses, but has been one of the most productive players on the field with three sacks over the last two preseason games. It hasn’t all been positive, Jones has been slow at times to cover backs and tight ends in the flat, but other times he’s been there with the ball and laid crushing hits on the receiver. He’s not there yet as an OLB, but has flashed the ability to be a playmaker at the position.
He has the speed to cover in the flat, the power to set the edge against the run, and the natural pass rush skills to get to the QB as he’s proved the last two games., The problem is that the Bears are actually semi-loaded at OLB with Floyd, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston, Pernell Mcphee, and Sam Acho. Jones’s chances for a roster spot may come down to a battle with Acho, who has been just as effective as a pass rusher, has more experience at the position, and is a more valuable special teams player.
There is still a chance that GM Ryan Pace chooses Jones’ upside over Acho’s veteran reliability, but it would be a long shot. The one bright spot is that the 25-year-old Jones probably has the most trade value of the three players on this list and could bring back a day three pick for the Bears next year.
Another option is trading Jones to add depth at a position that the Bears are thin at (most of them), but specifically cornerback. The Eagles are rumored to be shopping CB Eric Rowe, a 2nd round pick in last year’s draft, who isn’t a good fit for new DC Jim Schwartz’s aggressive scheme. Jones could go back to playing OLB in a 4-3, where he showed promise as a rookie and Rowe could give the Bears a tall corner who I pegged as a good fit for Fangio’s scheme before last year’s draft.
The Bears may have to throw in a late day three pick to make the trade happen, but it would give them a potential long-term starter at either corner or safety and lessen the pain of losing an elite athlete like Jones for nothing.
DE/DT Will Sutton – With the release of NT Terry Williams, the Bears don’t have a true nose tackle on the roster to back up Eddie Goldman. Akiem Hicks (6’5, 336) has the size to do it but his explosiveness off the ball is wasted somewhat facing consistent double teams inside. Versatile veteran Mitch Unrein could probably hold his own at NT for a few snaps at a time, but that is far from ideal as well.
Sutton has been getting snaps at nose tackle this preseason with the 2nd team defense and has flashed the ability to generate some interior pass rush. He’s struggled to hold up in the run game though. One the Browns 4-yard touchdown run last night, Sutton was pushed a few yards out of the hole easily by Browns backup interior linemen. He could have some value as a NT in sub packages, but doesn’t have the size (6’0, 297) to hold up against the run consistently.
He was drafted by the old regime to be a 3-tech DT and he’s never been an ideal fit for the Bears new 3-4 scheme. It’s a testament to his work ethic that Sutton has been able to stick around this long, but his days with the Bears may be numbered.
Hopefully the Bears will be able to find a team looking for a solid 3-tech DT who is willing to trade at least a day three pick for the Bears 3rd round selection from 2014.
DE Ego Ferguson – A 2nd round pick from the same draft as Sutton, Ferguson has been a bust from day one. He was routinely overpowered inside as a rookie and then spent last season on the injured reserve. Ferguson has better size (6’2, 305) to play DE in the Bears 3-4 scheme, but is far from an ideal fit. He’s been abused by double teams since his rookie year and it’s doubtful that he’s suddenly going to figure out how to deal with them.
In his defense, Ferguson did play his best game as a Bear in last night’s preseason game but it was probably too little too late for him to make the roster. If GM Ryan Pace can get anything for a player that has yet to make a significant contribution in two years in the league, then he gets my early season vote for GM of the year.
Ferguson has above average strength and athleticism, which made him a 2nd round pick in 2014, but clearly needs more time to develop before he seeing regular snaps on Sundays. If he can consistently play with the effort level he did last night, Ferguson may have a chance as a DT in a 4-3 defense somewhere but it most likely won’t be in Chicago.