Bears 2017 Free Agents: Offense

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

With the season finally over, it’s time to start looking at the 2017 season and what decisions the Bears are going to make this offseason. The Bears have 27 free agents and before they start focusing on external options and the draft, they need to figure out who they want to bring back from this year’s roster.

I’ll break down the offensive free agents first and then the defensive players later this week. Here is a list of Bears offensive free agents and my take on whether they should be brought back for 2017.

Bears Free Agents: Offense

WR Alshon Jeffery – Besides the quarterback position, Jeffery’s future is the biggest decision of the offseason for the Bears. Jeffery’s yards per start numbers are in line with the top tier receivers in the game over the last two seasons, but he hasn’t played enough games and disappeared too often late this season to pay him the $14-$15 million per year that other top free agent receivers have gotten lately.

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A deal closer to the $11-$12M that both Doug Baldwin and Keenan Allen got recently is the most I think Jeffery deserves after starting only 56% of Bears games the last two seasons. The Bears have the option to franchise Jeffery again, but at around $17M it shouldn’t even be an option for the Bears front office.

Jeffery is rumored to be asking for close to what he made this year, $14-$15M, and if that’s true then the Bears should let him walk and use the money elsewhere. They have plenty of cap space, but plenty of holes all over the roster. For $15M the Bears should get a more reliable player than Jeffery.

Verdict: Let him go

WR Marquess Wilson – Flashed his potential with an eight catch, 125-yard game in week 12, but has appeared in less than half of the Bears games in his four-year career. He’s basically been hurt since the Bears drafted him and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Let some other team deal with Wilson’s injury issues.

Verdict: Let him go

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports /

WR Deonte Thompson – If you have read my weekly takeaways post, you know I’m not Thompson’s biggest fan. He ended the year ranked 19th in kick return average (among players with at least 10 returns), which is a lot better than where he was ranked mid-season (dead-last).

Thompson had a couple of nice returns late in the year to salvage his average but was pretty bad for most of the season. He has a bad habit of taking the ball out of the end zone and not getting anywhere close the 25-yard line, where the Bears would get the ball if he just accepted the touchback.

Thompson may never be an elite kick returner, but he showed some legitimate receiving chops in the second half of the season. After just two catches in 2015, Thompson had 22 this year for 249 yards and two touchdowns.

There were some drops, including one in the end zone that would have been a game-winner, and most of his stats came in one eight catch, 110-yard game, but he showed significant improvement as the season went on. Thompson also has elite deep speed with a 40-yard dash timed as low as 4.21 in college.

The Bears don’t have that kind of speed anywhere else in the receiver group and Thompson shouldn’t cost much to keep around.

Verdict: Keep him (but not as a kick returner)