The Chicago Bears surprised many when they not only signed T.J. Edwards but then doubled down with a higher-paid linebacker in Tremaine Edmunds. There are questions of whether a team should invest this much in one position, and there are more significant questions about whether that position should be linebacker when positions such as cornerback and pass rusher have much more significant impacts on the forward passing game that is being played.
Chicago Bears added strong coverage linebackers
One apparent reason the Chicago Bears decided to take this route is that Matt Eberflus values the linebacker position highly in his defense. He went from Shaq Leonard and Anthony Walker to Leonard and Bobby Okereke in Indianapolis, although those were draft picks, and these are big free-agent signings.
Still, Matt Eberflus knows what he is getting from his linebackers now that they are both veterans and what he is getting is a duo of players who may be best equipped for today's NFL. Coverage is so hard for linebackers in today's NFL as they have to deal with quick slot receivers and big mismatch tight ends all in the same space.
However, the Chicago Bears do have two of the best. Last season, Edwards and Edmunds ranked first and second in yards per target. What is impressive about that is that neither was in the top 30 in snaps per target. So, they were being targeted as much, if not more than your average linebacker. However, they were suppressing yards when targeted, which is highly valuable.
A lot of this comes down to forced incompletions. T.J. Edwards ranked sixth in forced completion rate last season. Meanwhile, Tremaine Edmunds was first in this area. They are two of the best in the NFL in coverage.
The Chicago Bears decided to add both because they also happen to have skill sets that match off each other. Tremaine Edmunds is good in coverage because of his size. Hanging in the middle of the field and dropping into the secondary over the middle disrupts passing lanes, and he gets his hands on footballs that usually sail over linebackers' heads and drop into receivers' hands.
On the flip side, T.J. Edwards is much better in the run-and-chase role. He is good at reading and reacting and breaking up passes before they get to the flat. He holds check-down passes to losses or minimal gains. Edwards is better side-to-side and Edmunds is better north and south. it shows in Edmunds having the 10th deepest depth of target against, while Edwards ranks 68th.
They are both frequently targeted because teams throw over the middle and to the sidelines often, and these players are always there to clean up those areas. It does make sense that the Chicago Bears signed this duo. Their skill set is great for today's NFL, and they can play their skills off of each other.