The Bears may not have signed any big name free agents, but they were certainly busy with eight new additions to the roster.
The Chicago Bears disappointed some of their fans last week by not reeling in any big-name, high-impact free agents, despite having more cap room than most of the league. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, as the Bears were rumored to be in on plenty of the top NFL free agents last week. It’s hard to blame a player for preferring other teams since the Bears are coming off a brutal 3-13 season and the coaching staff may be in their last year if they can’t right the ship.
Though just because the Bears missed out on some big names (Gilmore, Bouye, Wagner) doesn’t mean that they didn’t improve their team for the 2017 campaign. We’ve already covered the signings from the first two days of free agency (Glennon, Demps, Amukamara, Sims), and below I’ve written a brief recap of the four players added this weekend.
WR Markus Wheaton, Steelers (5’11 | 189 | 26) – The Bears lost their #1 WR in Alshon Jeffery but took at least a small step toward replacing him with the signing of Wheaton. He’s not a #1 by any stretch of the imagination, but he does add the element of deep speed to the Bears receiver group.
A former track star, Wheaton has the speed (4.40) to get deep on most corners though does struggle at times to beat jams at the line of scrimmage. He’s on the small side, but thickly built and benched 225 pounds an impressive 20 times at the 2013 combine.
Wheaton played mostly outside with the Steelers and right now is probably the Bears best deep threat (we’ll see about Kevin White). In addition to his deep skills, Wheaton used his quick feet to get open consistently on short-to-intermediate routes from the slot.
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His quickness didn’t translate as much after the catch where Wheaton didn’t make many people miss but was willing to lower his shoulder and take hits after the catch to gain extra yards. The Bears will have a hole at the slot position after the pending release of Eddie Royal, so Wheaton could see snaps in the slot and outside.
Wheaton missed almost all of last season with a torn labrum but was coming off the best season of his young career in 2015. He was the Steelers third receiver (behind Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant) but still had 44 catches for 749 yards, five touchdowns, and an impressive 17 yards per catch. Wheaton has had some issues with drops with just over a 50% catch rate for his career on 187 targets.
Playing time for the Bears receivers is up for grabs and will depend on who plays well in training camp and the preseason. After being stuck as a third option with the Steelers, Wheaton has a chance to carve out a bigger role with the Bears in 2017, if he can stay healthy and produce like he did in 2015.
Contract: 2 years, $11M ($5M guaranteed)