With NFL teams able to officially sign free agents on Thursday, it’s time for my Bears defensive free agent predictions
The Chicago Bears could be sitting on over $70M in cap room after the expected release (or trade) of Jay Cutler, Eddie Royal, and possibly Lamarr Houston. That would put the Bears in the top five in the league in cap space and give them the option to sign multiple impact players once free agency is officially under way this Thursday. The excess cap room will come in handy because the Bears have plenty of holes to fill on both sides of the ball.
This year’s free agent class is considered below average, but there are more than enough 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 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 yet on the downside of their NFL careers. Hopefully Pace has learned his lesson on older players after the Antrel Rolle debacle.
I’ve taken a stab at predicting who the Bears will target in free agency on both offense and defense and how much it may cost them. I’ve already posted my offensive predictions and below I’ve posted the defensive free agents that I think the Bears could target.
Obviously, they aren’t going to sign everyone on this list, but these are the players I think have the right mix of talent and cost while filling a need for the Bears. The Bears secondary is one clear area of need, which is where I’ve focused on the most, but teams can never have enough talented players in the front seven either.
Let me know what you think of my defensive targets in the comments or on Twitter (@MikeFlannery_).
Bears Free Agent Targets: Defense
CB Stephon Gilmore, Bills – Texans corner A.J. Bouye seems to be considered the top corner in free agency, but I’m not sure he’s an ideal fit for the Bears defense. He excelled as a press corner for the Texans, which the Bears defensive scheme doesn’t utilize as often as most teams. Bouye also had just one interception, which is something the Bears need way more of in 2017, and he only has one season as a Pro Bowl caliber player.
Gilmore, on the other hand, had five picks last year and also made the Pro Bowl. He’s more of a man-to-man corner who can play well off the ball as well. His coverage skillset is a better fit for the Bears scheme right now, he’s got a longer track record of success with three strong seasons in a row, and has 11 interceptions over that stretch.
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The Bears have been looking for a tall corner for the last few years and Gilmore’s 6’1, 205-pound frame checks that box as do his ball skills and the speed (4.38) to run with anyone. Coming out of college, he was the 10th overall pick of the 2012 draft and one of the most athletic corners in the league.
Gilmore is coming off his worst season since 2013, but still made the Pro Bowl (as an injury replacement) at just 26 years old and may have been trying to do too much during a contract year on a bad team. He got burned deep too many times and his concentration seemed to waver, but those aren’t problems he had the previous two seasons when he was considered one of the best young corners in the league.
Adding Gilmore to the Bears defensive backfield would allow them to move Tracy Porter to the #2 corner spot, where he is better suited, and move both Bryce Callahan and Cre’Von LeBlanc to the slot, where they have the potential to be above-average players.
The Bears really can’t go wrong in choosing between Bouye and Gilmore, but when taking their last few years and overall skill-set into account, I think Gilmore is the better fit.
Predicted contract: 4 years, $56M