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Black Friday: Window Shopping Free Agents

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The Bears are still talent-starved enough that they will need to spend some money to keep the cupboard stocked in the next free agency period. So, who is Pace going to go after?

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Black Friday is here, and that means it’s time to shop for some deals! In the football world, the real “shopping period” is free agency, but it seemed okay to take a sneak peek at some of the deals that might be available at the end of the season. Even if there is no change in coaching staff, needs will be needs.

For now, I’m assuming that Ryan Pace is back, and I’m also assuming that nothing truly catastrophic happens (e.g. there’s not another Zach Miller injury). However, I am noting impending free agents who are already wearing Navy and Orange when it seems important (for example, Inman is free agent at the end of the year).

Note that this list is about who I think the Bears might shop for, not a wish list of who I think the team needs to get, and it’s certainly not an endorsement of the players. There are three strong positions of need, listed in no particular order.

Wide Receiver

Jarvis Landry is set to become a free agent. The 25-year-old two-time Pro Bowler already has more than 3600 yards and he catches almost 70% of balls thrown his way. While Football Outsiders brings up some interesting points about his actual value to a team, it’s fair to say he’s going to get paid. However, it’s probably pointless to think about him being signed by the Bears. First of all, there’s good reason to think he’ll stay in Miami. Second, there’s the reality that Pace rarely chases after the big-ticket free agents, and with Spotrac projecting Landry’s next deal to be north of $14 million per year (they suggest 5 years and a total value nearing $72 million), Landry will be about as big-ticket as they come. Finally, there’s the fact that there would be little beyond money to tempt Landry to come to Chicago. The weather? The proven coaching staff? The stability of the franchise? The supportive fan base?

This isn’t happening. If you remember being a kid at Christmas and looking at the awesome mega toy set that was in the window of a store, knowing you would never actually get it and trying to imagine what kind of child actually owned such wonders, then you have a sense of how likely it is that Pace is going to bring Landry to Halas Hall.

What about Dontrelle Inman? He has flashed some promise in the few opportunities he has been given, and Chicago has already invested a 7th-round pick in him. It cost nearly $3 million for the Chargers to sign him to a 1-year deal in the last free agency period, and that was probably a little too much given his prior production. Still, there would be nothing wrong with him earning a Kendall Wright-style contract ($2 million), even if Wright is younger (yet still with more experience) and is more productive both in terms of his career and on a per-game basis. The fact of the matter is that at this point, Inman has more potential upside, and so he is worth keeping around.

Meanwhile, Eric Decker will be coming off of a 1-year deal with the Titans, who are paying him up to $4 million. He has has three 1000-plus-yard seasons (each with double-digit touchdown counts as well), and he ‘s a big body (6’3”). He’s also a 30-year-old wide receiver who has played in all 16 games for exactly one of his prior seven seasons. This means that he looks like a classic Ryan Pace target--he’s a once-productive player with an injury history who might be on the downslide. However, he can probably be had for a decent price, and he plugs a hole. This deal, or something like it, is probably headed to Chicago when free agency opens up.

Cornerback

Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller both become free agents next year (as does ‘cornerback’ Sherrick McManis). In fact, unless the team has a lot of confidence in Marcus Cooper (signed through 2019) and Bryce Callahan, Chicago will be in the market for a corner next year. This means that they will likely end up paying someone a decent chunk of change, even for just mediocre performance. Assuming that Pace doesn’t keep the whole gang together, who’s out there?

A lot of expensive talent, plus a lot of cheap placeholders.

Trumaine Johnson will be coming off of the second year of being franchise tagged (he’s earned over $30 million in the last two years), and he is likely to require the sort of splashy investment that Ryan Pace avoids. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that even mediocre cornerbacks command real money (Amukamara is making $7 million). Spotrac expects E.J. Gaines to net nearly $10 million a year in 2018’s free agency.

In fact, the reality is that barring a real deviation from his usual approach, it makes more sense for Pace to extend either Fuller or Amukamara (perhaps whichever is cheaper, or maybe even both) and then to take a swing at the position in the draft.

Edge Rusher

Connor Barwin is on a 1-year deal with the Rams, making $3.5 million. In his career, he has 54.5 sacks, and 4 of those have come in 2017. He also has notched 8 quarterback hits this year. Barwin is getting older, but after recovering from an ankle injury in 2010, he has made every available game from 2011 forward. He has one Pro Bowl and 5 playoff games under his belt (plus, presumably, whatever the Rams do this year). Depending on whether or not he renews with the Rams, he could make an attractive prospect.

Barkevious Mingo is another name that merits some discussion. While mostly remembered (more or less justifiably) as either an overdraft or an out-and-out bust (he has 7 career sacks despite being the 6th overall pick in 2013), he’s another player who seems like he could thicken the ranks at a bargain price. He’s currently playing for the Colts on a 1-year, $2 million deal, and while he has not been a real force of nature or anything (5 quarterback hits and no sacks with only 22 total tackles), he’s been a guy who can rotate in and take some snaps (just under 40% of them, actually).

So, he’s a guy who once showed promise and never really turned the corner, but he plays a position of need and does so at a not-quite starter level? He sounds like a guy the Bears are going to call at some point. Interesting side note--Spotrac claims that Mingo is “95.45%” similar in stats and value to Pernell McPhee.

Summary

If the last three years have shown anything, it’s that Ryan Pace is probably not going to go after the big name. He’s going to bargain shop, and he’s going to target the “almost top guy” available and pay him more or less market price for his services. This means that Decker and Mingo are a lot more likely than Landry and Johnson.

I could be wrong, however. Who do you think the Bears actually will target during the next free agency? Tell us below.