The Chicago Bears are coming on strong to finish the 2023 regular season. Unfortunately, the team blew three games they should have won earlier in the year or they'd be a Wild Card contender. All three losses came in the fourth quarter despite their odds of winning each game being greater than 90%. Ryan Poles told us that the Bears roster was not complete and only at 75% to 80% of where it needed to be. Adding Montez Sweat via trade seems to have pulled them closer, but I still don't think they are more than 80% complete heading into the 2024 NFL offseason.
The Bears need to upgrade a few key positions to become true competitors in 2024. The quarterback position is obviously the one most talked about, but is it really the biggest need? One position I thought would be a lock as a need this offseason is free safety. Eddie Jackson will be entering the final year of his five-year contract extension. He will be on the Chicago Bears books for $18.1 million. However, if they were to cut Jackson, he'd only cost them $5.5 million in dead cap and save them $12 million.
Will the Chicago Bears be stuck with Eddie Jackson in 2024?
It is not like the Chicago Bears need to save money heading into 2024. The team is currently projected to be seventh in cap space. Cody Whitehair is a lock to be cut and that will add another $9 million to the table. Eddie Jackson has been struggling to stay healthy every year, but the problem is that the free agency market at safety is not great. He could be a salary cap casualty in 2024, but I also though Whitehair would be one in 2023.
The best true free safety available (if he reaches free agency) is Antoine Winfield, Jr. I have a feeling he doesn't make it to free agency though. Other names who could become available are Budda Baker, Micah Hyde, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. The Cardinals have a club option on Baker, Hyde is going to be 33 and Gardner-Johnson has bounced around from team to team for a reason.
The Bears could look to the NFL Draft to find a safety, but it might be hard to count on a rookie next to Jaquan Brisker without a veteran presence. I would not shocked if instead of cutting Jackson right away, the team looks to hold onto him until after the draft. If a rookie or another veteran prove worthy enough, then Poles could move on from Jackson in the second wave of cuts after the draft. They might also feel that he is worth keeping around even though he's being vastly overpaid based on his recent performance.