DE Vance Walker, Broncos (6’3 | 295 | 29) – Coming into the 2016 season, Walker was expected to be the starting left end for the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos, but an ACL injury in the preseason put Walker on the sideline all year.
Walker appeared in 15 games for the Broncos in 2015 with four starts and had two sacks and 32 tackles as a rotational defensive end. He has 32 starts in seven years since he was drafted by the Falcons in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. Walker has totaled 12 sacks, 116 tackles, and two forced fumbles.
Walker is a versatile defensive linemen who can play multiple spots in either odd or even man fronts. He’s been an above-average run-stopper since he came in the league seven years ago, but has also flashed pass rush ability. He’s an upgrade over the Bears current utility d-linemen, Mitch Unrein. Walker has more burst off the ball, better closing speed, and uses his hands well to shed blockers and make plays near the line of scrimmage.
The addition of Walker combined with the recent signing of DT John Jenkins and development of last year’s third-round pick Jonathan Bullard would give the Bears more quality depth on the d-line than they’ve had in years. Jenkins can rotate in with nose tackle Eddie Goldman while Walker could potentially start opposite Hicks or back up Jonathan Bullard or possible #3 pick Jonathan Allen at defensive end.
After coming off an ACL injury, Walker won’t be an expensive signing for the Bears but could be a key contributor on the defensive line next year with the potential to be a solid starter. If Walker could start for the defending champion Broncos before his injury, then he’s most likely an upgrade for the Bears if he’s back to his pre-injury form. It’s worth the small price tag for the Bears to find out.