Bears 2023 free agency preview: Will Mike Pennel be back in rotational role?
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 Mike Pennel, who served in a rotational role along the league’s worst defensive line in 2022. But with Chicago looking to overhaul the defensive line, does he factor into their plans?
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26 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 QB hits, 2 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery (17 games, 2 starts)
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The Bears signed Pennel last summer to add depth at defensive tackle. He’s someone that Poles had seen during his time with the Chiefs and who ultimately replaced Khyiris Tonga, who was released. Pennel served as a key rotational piece along the defensive interior this season, where he had some nice moments in limited snaps. Pennel’s best game of the season came against the Eagles, where he had two solo tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble on only 22 snaps. He also earned a 93.1 grade by Pro Football Focus.
Positional need: High
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The entire defensive line needs an overhaul this offseason, including the interior where the Bears need to find a dominant three-technique to power this defense. Jones is the only potential starter on the roster, and he’s someone who could shift to one-technique assuming Chicago finds an upgrade at 3-tech.
There’s no doubt Poles will address the defensive line this offseason. But whether or not that involves drafting Jalen Carter or someone else in the draft versus bringing in an experienced veteran all depends on how things shake out heading into free agency next month.
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The defensive line is the position group that will likely undergo the biggest overhaul this offseason, where there are needs both along the interior and off the edge. The Bears will have roughly $100 million in salary cap space to work with in addressing the entire roster, and it’ll start in the trenches. Even when looking at adding depth along the interior, it’s hard to imagine Pennel back in the fray. He was an emergency signing last summer and someone who didn’t make any significant contributions. Pennel was a decent run stopper but lacked any real pass rush ability.
2023 free agency profiles
We’re highlighting the Bears’ most notable free agents set to hit the open market in March:
Joe Thomas (3/6)
Armon Watts (3/7)
Dane Cruikshank (3/8)
Ryan Griffin (3/9)
Dante Pettis (3/10)