With the 2017 NFL season set to start on Tuesday, March 7th, it’s time to look at the potential free agent targets for the Chicago Bears.
With the Bears expected to release or trade QB Jay Cutler before the start of next season, they should have at least over $60M in cap space which would put them in the top five teams in the league. The potential releases of OLB Lamarr Houston and WR Eddie Royal would put them well over $70M. They have plenty of cash available this offseason, but plenty of roster holes as well.
This year’s free agent class is considered below average, but there are plenty of players available who could help the Bears in 2017 and beyond. GM Ryan Pace has been active in free agency the last two offseasons but has shown restraint as well. He has consistently mentioned avoiding “land-mines” in free agency and I expect a similar approach this year.
In the last two offseasons, Pace has mainly targeted players finishing up their rookie deals (McPhee, Hicks, Trevathan) who still theoretically have upside remaining and their best football ahead of them. I expect more of the same this year from Pace with the Bears looking to add players in their mid-to-late 20s who aren’t on the downside of their NFL careers.
I’ve taken a stab at predicting who the Bears will target in free agency on both offense and defense. I’ve started with the offense today, but will have my defensive predictions soon.
With quarterback being the most obvious need, I’ve started there and included a few other players who I think would fill significant roster holes. Let me know what you think in the comments or on Twitter (@MikeFlannery_).
Bears Free Agent Targets: Offense
QB Mike Glennon, Bucs: The Bears have just two quarterbacks on their roster right now and one, Jay Cutler, is likely to be released or traded soon. The Bears did just re-sign Connor Shaw but he’s not expected to compete for the starting position.
There are plenty of rumors about the Bears trading for Jimmy Garoppolo but if the Bears are going to get their future quarterback through the draft, it makes sense to also sign a starting caliber player as a bridge for the next year or two at least.
Glennon has some starting experience in the league with 18 starts for the Bucs. Most of those starts were made during his rookie season in 2013 behind an awful offensive line. Despite a poor supporting cast, Glennon has put up an impressive 30 touchdown to 15 interception ratio in his three-year career.
A former 3rd round pick in 2013, Glennon has some legit NFL traits including elite arm strength and ideal size (6’6). He has the ability to see clearly over defensive lines and make every NFL throw with zip, touch, and (sometimes) accuracy.
Glennon also has a quick release, is comfortable in the pocket, and has larger than average hands (9 5/8″) which should help with ball security. He’s gotten glowing reviews from the Bucs coaching staff for a good work ethic and above average intelligence. The Bucs tried hard to keep Glennon, offering to make him the highest-paid backup in the league.
Glennon is looking for a shot to start which is understandable considering he was stuck behind former #1 overall pick Jameis Winston in Tampa. He would have a chance to start with the Bears, at least in the short term and is also said to be looking to sign with a team that has an established coaching staff in place.
I’m not sure the Bears coaching staff meets that qualification, but they would at least be able to give Glennon a chance to start and protect him with an above-average offensive line. Glennon has yet to play behind a good pass-blocking line in his career and may be tempted to see what he can do behind a Bears line that gave up the seventh fewest sacks in the league last season..
The quality of a team’s offensive line may ultimately be the deciding factor in where Glennon ends up signing as the biggest knock on him so far in his young career is that he doesn’t handle pressure well. He lacks the speed to escape the rush and has already been sacked 56 times in 21 games so far.
Glennon’s accuracy is also questionable with stretches where he can’t seem to hit his targets in stride. He barely completed 60% off his passes in college (60.4%) and is slightly under that so far in the pros (59.4%). Glennon is a rhythm passer whose accuracy can be disrupted by pressure, but if protected can string together multiple drives of accurate throws.
If the Bears can protect Glennon consistently, he has the arm, vision, and mechanics to be a successful NFL quarterback. He’s been fairly successful already in his brief NFL career and has all the physical tools to be a legitimate #1 quarterback in the league.
The Bears could (and should) hedge their bet on Glennon by drafting a rookie quarterback within the first three rounds. They can give Glennon a couple of years as a bridge quarterback with the potential to be a long-term solution. If Glennon plays well and the rookie they draft develops, then the Bears would be in the fortunate position of having an extra quarterback to trade.
I’m looking ahead a little too much, but worst case Glennon has already proved to be a competent NFL quarterback, which is more than most of the available QB options this year can say. A guy like Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley may be the cheaper choice, but Glennon is the only one of those three with legitimate potential to be an above-average starter in the league.
The price tag on Glennon may end up being shocking with rumors having it somewhere between $10M and $20M(!). If the final price tag ends up being somewhere in between, the Bears should pull the trigger. Even if it’s as much as $15M, the rookie they draft will only cost a few million, giving the Bears two potential starting quarterbacks for slightly less than the going rate for a quality starter ($20M).
Predicted salary: 4 years, $56M