3 Free Agents Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace Should Consider Signing

Chicago Bears - Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears - Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /
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Chicago Bears, RIchard Sherman, San Fransisco 49ers
Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

1. Richard Sherman

After cutting veteran CB1 Kyle Fuller earlier this offseason due to lack of cap space, the Bears are likely counting on two 2nd year cornerbacks to start on the outside. Earning 1st team all-pro honors in 2018, Fuller had 21 PBU’s (pass breakups), seven interceptions, and 55 tackles. Starting his last 66 games for Chicago, Fuller will be greatly missed by the Bear’s defense.

Promoting 2020 2nd rd pick out of Utah, Jaylon Johnson to CB1, a new era at cornerback has begun in Chicago. A talented young corner, Johnson has had injury problems with his right shoulder. Tearing his labrum in the fall of 2018 season, Johnson was able to put off surgery until after the 2020 NFL Draft Combine. Starting his first 13 games for Chicago in 2020, Johnson was one of the NFL’s best rookie corners. With 15 PBU’S in 13 games last season, Johnson has the talent and skill in coverage to be CB1 for Chicago.

Injuring his shoulder in the Week 14 win against the Houston Texans, Johnson never returned in 2020. Despite never having offseason surgery, Johnson’s shoulder has made a full recovery. Heading into this season, Johnson’s health will be very important for the success of this Bears defense. As long as he remains healthy, I expect Johnson to be a great cornerback with a very high ceiling the next three seasons.

Across from Johnson, 2020 5th rd pick, Kindle Vildor, and veteran Desmond Trufant are battling in camp for the presumed CB2 duties. Most people following the Bears team (including me), expect Vildor to win the starting job opposite Jaylon Johnson. Starting just one game for the Bears in 2020, Vildor has shown flashes of potential in his limited reps at cornerback.

So far in training camp, reports about Vildor’s progression have been very positive. Posting a 39.5 inch vertical, and 4.44 40 yard dash at the 2020 NFL Draft Combine, Vildor has plenty of physical upside.  A cornerback who Ryan Pace was very high on coming out of Georgia Southern, I expect him to become a solid starter this season on the outside at CB2 for Sean Desai’s defense.

In the slot at the “Nickel” CB position for Chicago, the Bears only have one cornerback with any starting experience. Starting two games at nickel last year for the Bears, Duke Shelley was below average in coverage. Allowing 16 receptions on just 20 targets, Shelley posted a 56.5 overall PFF grade during his limited reps in the slot. At just 5 foot 8, 180 lbs, Shelley lacks the size and versatility to play CB anywhere but in the slot.

With elite slot cornerback play being such a huge part of the 2018 Bears defense’s success, Duke Shelley is a concern to me. As many Bears fans can remember, slot CB Bryce Callahan was very dominant that season in pass coverage. Posting an overall PFF grade of 81.3, Callahan ranked 11th in the NFL out of 131 eligible cornerbacks.

Entering the 2021 season with the NFL’s 6th most expensive defense, the Chicago Bears are counting on a big return on Ryan Pace’s investments. For this defense to play anywhere near their 2018 level, they’re going to have to be better in pass coverage. The return of Eddie Goldman is sure to fix Chicago’s problems stopping the run, but how they will stop the pass?

What if Jaylon Johnson gets hurt? Will Duke Shelley or any of the other young CB’s emerge as viable options in the slot? Right now, there are too many question marks at CB entering the season for Sean Desai’s defense. The Bears cornerback group needs more depth, experience, and versatility.

Signing Richard Sherman could be too expensive for the Bears. But if he was willing to play for an affordable price, he would significantly improve this Bears defense. Playing a role similar to Prince Amukamara in 2018, Sherman could have plenty of opportunities to make plays on the football. In his last fully healthy season in 2019, Sherman earned 1st team all-pro honors. Recording three interceptions, 61 tackles, and 11 PBU’S, Sherman was a valuable veteran presence in the 49ers secondary.

Although Sherman’s asking price is likely too high, I could only imagine this Bears defense if they had him.

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Sherman is still going thru some legal stuff over a domestic incident last month. I’d rather not get into any reported details and wish Sherman the best moving forward. He’s been a great player in the NFL for a long time, and I think he has two or three years of solid football left in him (in the right scheme).

Ryan Pace has had a great offseason, and I am very grateful for how everything has turned out. I’m not asking, demanding, or expecting him to go out and sign Richard Sherman. But if Pace did, it would provide the Bears with a great boost of depth, experience, and playmaking ability in the secondary.