Tremaine Edmunds give Bears linebacker Matt Eberflus needs

Bears bet on Edmunds reaching lofty potential with big deal originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus had a gaping hole in the second level of his defense during his first season in Chicago.

Rectifying that was clearly a point of emphasis for him and general manager Ryan Poles this offseason.

Hours after the Bears opened free agency by agreeing to sign Philadelphia Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards to a three-year contract, Pole struck a deal with 24-year-old linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, sources confirmed to NBC Sports Chicago. NFL Media's Ian Rapoport was first to report the news.

Edmunds is a two-time Pro Bowler who will significantly improve his coverage ability in 2022. He's a 6-foot-5, long, athletic linebacker with great acceleration coming downhill against the run and has the range to defend the pass in the second level.

Last season, Edmunds' 86.9 coverage grade was the third-best among off-ball linebackers, per Pro Football Focus. Edmunds forced an incompletion on 10.3 percent of targets and allowed just four explosive receptions, per PFF.

Edmunds' athleticism and coverage ability make him an ideal option to start at the WILL linebacker spot in Eberflus' Tampa 2 scheme,

To go along with the improvement in coverage ability, Edmunds only missed 6.5 percent of his tackle opportunities in 2022. Last season, Bears linebackers missed (Nicholas Morrow, Joe Thomas, Roquan Smith, and Jack Sanborn) missed 40 tackles and had a missed tackle rate of 11.4 percent. Edmunds missed just seven tackles all season.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Edmunds' contract is for four years, $72 million with $50 million guaranteed.

The Bears chose not to pay Roquan Smith $20 million annually and will instead pay Edmunds and Edwards $24.5 million AAV.

A 2018 first-round pick who was compared to Brian Urlacher in the pre-draft process, Edmunds has started 74 career games and is still just 24 years old.

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The big question for Edmunds will be his ball production. In five seasons, he has only notched five interceptions, two forced fumbles, and 6.5 sacks. Eberflus has said that ball production is the most important trait for a WILL linebacker in his system.

What is clear is that Edmunds fits the mold for what Eberflus looks for in an off-ball linebacker. He's long, explosive, athletic, and is just scratching the surface of his potential at 24.

It's now up to Eberflus and his staff to make sure Edmunds reaches the ceiling they project he has as a key cog in their defense.

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