Five remaining NFL free agents who fit Bears' value, scheme-based approach
Five remaining NFL free agents who fit Bears' value-based approach originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
General manager Ryan Poles and the Bears opened up free agency with an expected spending spree, although not quite in the areas most expected.
Poles, head coach Matt Eberflus, and the Bears' staff spent two months evaluating a relatively thin free agency class. They placed each player into a "value bucket," which gave them their map to a more competent roster in 2023.
The Bears took a swing at two marquee free agents. They signed linebacker Tremaine Edmunds to a four-year, $72 million contract but lost out on right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who signed a five-year deal with the Denver Broncos.
Most thought the Bears would prioritize the offensive and defensive lines in free agency, but Chicago's big spending focused on improving the linebacking corps. Edmunds is joined by T.J. Edwards, who signed a three-year contract to play for his hometown team.
The Bears have yet to fill their glaring hole at three-technique and have not solved the question at right tackle.
After losing out on McGlinchey, Poles could have taken a run at Orlando Brown Jr., but the Bears didn't see the star left tackle as a scheme fit. Javon Hargrave's $20 million AAV deal with the San Francisco 49ers certainly landed outside the value bucket the Bears had for the 30-year-old defensive tackle. Poles was surprisingly not involved in the bidding for defensive lineman Dre'Mont Jones, whose deal with the Seattle Seahawks came in under the projected number.
The Bears supplemented the signings of Edmunds and Edwards with solid veterans on both sides of the ball who won't break the bank. As of Monday, the Bears still have around $30 million in cap space and need to add at least eight more starting-caliber players between free agency and the draft.
Poles knows the Bears' roster needs work. But he also wants to be disciplined in his spending. He understands this rebuild will take several offseasons to complete.
“Right now, we get the sense that we have to fix everything right now and the opportunities are limited, but I feel comfortable that in free agency, we’re only two days into it, as well as in the draft that we can get that group as good as we possibly can," Poles said during his free agency press conference. "There are going to be some weak spots on our roster that we can’t fix everything but we are going to stay flexible to do the best we can to get better."
The Bears shouldn't spend all their remaining cap space, but several veteran free agents could fit into the Bears' value-based approach.
The Bears signed defensive end DeMarcus Walker and defensive tackle Andrew Billings in free agency, but more help is needed to elevate a unit that lacked punch in 2022.
Ngakoue, 27, has at least eight sacks in each of his first seven NFL seasons. He's coming off a 9.5-sack season for the Colts, in which he registered 44 pressures, per Pro Football Focus.
The veteran doesn't offer much in terms of run defense, but he gets to the quarterback, which the Bears struggled with last season.
The best-remaining cornerback on the market, the 26-year-old Ya-Sin has familiarity with Eberflus, who drafted him in Indianapolis.
Ya-Sin isn't a shutdown corner, but he's a capable No. 2 who would fit well opposite Jaylon Johnson. That would also allow the Bears to leave Kyler Gordon in the nickel.
Per PFF, Ya-Sin has a forced incompletion rate of 18.2 percent over the past two seasons and has allowed only 0.67 yards per coverage snap.
The Bears prioritized players between 24 and 28 years old in free agency but could use more veteran leadership in a relatively young locker room.
Houston, 34, is coming off a 9.5-sack season for the Baltimore Ravens, where he registered an 18.4 percent pass-rush win rate, per PFF.
I'd expect Houston to wait for a contender to call, but the Bears could use what he brings to the table.
The Bears have already added a handful of former Panthers this offseason, so what's one more? Ioannidis is a good interior pass-rusher who has at least 35 pressures in five of the last six seasons, with an injury-plagued 2020 serving as the only campaign in which he didn't meet that number.
Unless the Bears draft Jalen Carter, it's looking like Eberflus will have to wait until next offseason to get the disruptive three-technique his defense needs.
Ioannidis is a solid placeholder who can give the Bears an interior presence they lacked in 2022.
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After losing McGlinchey and electing not to chase Brown or Jawaan Taylor, the Bears have a black hole at right tackle. As of right now, I'd expect them to choose a tackle at No. 9 in the NFL draft if they don't take a chance on Carter.
Even if they use a first-round pick on a tackle, reliable depth is needed.
Fleming, 30, started nine games at right tackle and six at left last season for the Broncos. He gave up only 28 pressures and seven sacks in 605 pass-block snaps, per PFF. He gave up 20 pressures and six sacks in true pass sets while logging a 94.2 efficiency rating.
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