Bears 2023 free agency preview: Angelo Blackson is out the door
NFL free agency will be here before we know it, and the Chicago Bears have plenty of players set to hit the market. From key starters to valuable reserves, general manager Ryan Poles will have important decisions to make about who to bring back.
Here at Bears Wire, we’re going through each individual player and breaking down their 2022 performance and whether or not they fit in the Bears’ long-term plans.
Our next player is Angelo Blackson, a defensive lineman who saw his snaps diminish as the season went on and is on his way out of Chicago.
Nov 25, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions guard Tommy Kraemer (78) is called for holding on Chicago Bears defensive end Angelo Blackson (90) in the second quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports
22 tackles (1 for a loss)
1 pass defensed
Jan 2, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears defensive end Angelo Blackson (90) during the first quarter against the New York Giants at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
Blackson was the only 2021 free agent signing to make it to Year 2 with the Bears under a new regime and a new defense. He was counted on as the starting defensive tackle in the new 4-3 scheme and actually got off to a decent start. Blackson had nine total tackles between Weeks 2-4, making impactful plays against the Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, and New York Giants. He showed was able to make an impact in a new defense after playing in a 3-4 system throughout his professional career. But Blackson began to see his snap count diminish as the games wore on.
He lost his starting spot after Week 3 and went from playing more than 30 snaps a game to single digits. He was even a healthy scratch for multiple games, but saw plenty of playing time in the team’s regular season finale. Blackson wasn’t much of a factor on the defensive line and lost snaps to players like Armon Watts and Mike Pennel.
Positional need: High
Clemson defensive lineman Bryan Bresee (11) wams up before the game with Wake Forest at Truist Field in Winston-Salem, North Carolina Saturday, September 24, 2022.
Ncaa Football Clemson At Wake Forest
Defensive line was arguably the biggest issue plaguing the Bears in 2022. They were inept at getting after the quarterback, notching just 20 sacks in 17 games and struggled to stop the run as well. To be blunt, their interior defensive line was a disaster and it’s going to be one of, if not the biggest focus during free agency and the NFL Draft. Unfortunately, their ideal targets are becoming fewer and fewer by the day.
When it comes to free agency, Washington Commanders’ Daron Payne was set to be one of the most coveted players on the market but he had the franchise tag placed on him. In the draft, Georgia’s Jalen Carter is considered by many to be the top overall prospect. Now he’s mired in legal trouble due to racing and reckless driving charges in a fatal crash earlier this year that could cause his stock to plummet.
The Bears will still have options to upgrade the position though. With Payne out, they could look to a player like Javon Hargrave from the Philadelphia Eagles, Dalvin Tomlinson from the Minnesota Vikings, or Dre’Mont Jones from the Denver Broncos. In the draft, Clemson’s Bryan Bresee could see his stock rise with the potential Carter fallout. Either way, it’s going to be a focus for the Bears after their lackluster production in 2022.
Sep 19, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears defensive end Angelo Blackson (90) celebrates after making an interception against the Cincinnati Bengals during the fourth quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports
Though nothing is ever truly certain, Blackson’s days as a Bear are numbered. The team voided his contract in late February and given his experience as as a defensive end in a 3-4 defense, he doesn’t fit what the Bears want to do. He was a solid signing under former general manager Ryan Pace, putting together a respectable 2021 season. The fact he hung on for the entire 2022 season in an unfamiliar scheme is somewhat impressive.
Blackson can still be a solid depth player for another team and he should be able to sign on elsewhere. It just won’t be back in Chicago.
2023 free agency profiles
We’re highlighting the Bears’ most notable free agents set to hit the open market in March:
Matt Adams (3/3)
Michael Schofield (3/4)
Mike Pennel (3/5)
Joe Thomas (3/6)
Armon Watts (3/7)
Dane Cruikshank (3/8)
Ryan Griffin (3/9)
Dante Pettis (3/10)