Bears 2023 free agency preview: Did Armon Watts show enough to come back?
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.
Next up is defensive tackle Armon Watts, a player the Bears claimed off waivers just prior to the start of the season. He had some nice moments, but was it enough to warrant a return?
Oct 13, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Washington Commanders running back Brian Robinson (8) scores a touchdown against Chicago Bears linebacker Nicholas Morrow (53) and defensive tackle Armon Watts (96) during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
35 total tackles (4 for a loss)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – OCTOBER 13: Carson Wentz #11 of the Washington Commanders attempts a two-point conversion against Armon Watts #96 of the Chicago Bears during the fourth quarter at Soldier Field on October 13, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
When the Bears claimed Watts off waivers from the Minnesota Vikings, the belief was that on person’s trash could be another person’s treasure. Watts was coming off a career year as a Viking and the Bears needed help at the defensive tackle position. It seemed to be the perfect pairing for the new-look defense.
That wasn’t exactly the case. Watts had just one sack all year, though he did set a career high with four tackles for a loss and made his presence known multiple times during the season with key tackles for loss. But the Bears were a team that could not stop the run and generate pressure against quarterbacks during passing situations, with Watts playing a role in those struggles.
Positional need: High
Oct 2, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (97) reacts after a fumble recovery against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Defensive tackle is going to be at or near the top of Poles’ to-do list when free agency opens in a few days. The Bears generated a league-low 20 sacks in 17 games, in large part due to the ineffectiveness of the interior of the defensive line. It’s also worth noting that Justin Jones is the only notable defensive tackle under currently under contract. Jones is a nice player but the Bears need more firepower and will be active this offseason to find a solution.
Some of those solutions could be players like Javon Hargrave, the Philadelphia Eagles standout or Dre’Mont Jones, the productive Denver Broncos defensive lineman. They could also look early in the draft depending on where they end up after eventually moving the top pick. The point is there will be a number of options out there and the Bears are going to turn over every leaf to find impact players that can elevate the defensive line’s play in 2023.
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – SEPTEMBER 11: Safety Eddie Jackson #4 of the Chicago Bears celebrates with defensive tackle Armon Watts #96 of the Chicago Bears after an interception during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field on September 11, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
The Bears need a gamechanger on the defensive line but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for Watts on the team. He’s only going to be 27 years old when the season begins and rotating him in as a reserve could be an ideal role for him. He likely won’t command too much money and can build off his first season as a Bear.
Watts could find a team that gives him more opportunities to play. He was sought after when he was placed on waivers last August, with multiple teams submitting claims for his services. His market will be interesting to follow, but if any free agent defensive lineman is going to return to Chicago this offseason, it’s Watts.
2023 free agency profiles
We’re highlighting the Bears’ most notable free agents set to hit the open market in March:
Dane Cruikshank (3/8)
Ryan Griffin (3/9)
Dante Pettis (3/10)