Bears 2023 free agency preview: Will Chicago bring back Joe Thomas?
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 Joe Thomas, who served as key depth at linebacker and was a valuable special teams contributor. Thomas would be an affordable depth piece. But should Chicago look elsewhere?
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61 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 2 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery (15 games, 9 starts)
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Thomas served as a key contributor for the Bears’ linebacking corp, where he saw nine starts in 2022. But Thomas is the perfect example of why you need solid depth at different positions. Thomas, who started the year on the practice squad, was more involved than many expected him to be. That had to do with Roquan Smith being traded and injuries, including Jack Sanborn landing on IR later in the season. But Thomas did have his moments, including a streak of 22 solo and 32 total tackles in a three-game span.
Position need: High
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Considering undrafted rookie Jack Sanborn is the only starter on the roster, it’s safe to say linebacker is a big position of need this offseason. Although, when compared to others like defensive and offensive line, it’s not as concerning. Especially when you factor in the fact that Chicago could bring back Nicholas Morrow on a one- or two-year deal — at an affordable rate — to fill that hole until they find his replacement.
Sanborn certainly made a case to be the starter at MIKE linebacker in 2023, which means Chicago needs to lock down a WILL and SAM linebacker. Could Thomas return in that SAM role this year?
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The Bears have just one linebacker who factors into playing time on the 53-man roster in Sanborn, which means they have plenty of moves to make. They need to find a WILL and SAM linebacker, as well as depth at the position. Chicago will likely explore outside options to upgrade at linebacker. But perhaps having a veteran like Thomas on the roster, to serve as key depth and a special teams contributor, could earn him a one-year extension. Still, Thomas isn’t exactly a priority but could be a Plan B for the Bears as a depth piece.
2023 free agency profiles
We’re highlighting the Bears’ most notable free agents set to hit the open market in March:
Armon Watts (3/7)
Dane Cruikshank (3/8)
Ryan Griffin (3/9)
Dante Pettis (3/10)