Leonard Floyd - Signed through 2020 - The Chicago Bears need Floyd to continue the improvement he’s shown over the first two years of his career, but more importantly, they need him to stay healthy.
While most fans would like to see Floyd and his 4.6 speed tearing around the edge terrorizing quarterbacks, Floyd has shown that he’s a complete football player. He improved against the run in 2017, he became better at setting the edge, and his ability to drop into coverage at 6-foot-6 can take away a lot of throwing windows.
Don’t get me wrong, I want Floyd to be a double digit sack guy, but if the Bears address edge rusher this offseason (like we all assume they will) Floyd’s all around ability will be put to good use.
Pernell McPhee - Signed through 2019 - I liked the McPhee signing when the Bears brought him on board three years ago, and I like what he brings to the team when he’s healthy, but he’s not very healthy. He played in 13 games last year, but he played less than 45 percent of the snaps in six of them. He only played in 36 percent of the defensive snaps overall.
It’s been widely speculated that the Bears will release McPhee, and cutting him will save about $7.5 million. But the Bears need a plan in place if they do part ways. His 4 sacks last year tied for third on the team and his 11 quarterback hits was fourth.
EDIT: He was released.
Sam Acho - Free agent - I like Acho as the fourth or fifth outside linebacker on the roster. He’s a damn good special teams player, when called upon to play defebse he’s always been solid, and you can’t discount what a good locker room guy he is. I could see another one-year deal for him.
Willie Young - Signed through 2018 - Young is another Bear coming off a stint on injured reserve, and another potential cap casualty. Releasing him will save $4.5 million, and at 32-years old, the Bears may want to allocate that money to a younger player.
EDIT: He was released too.
Lamarr Houston - Free agent - I was glad the Bears brought Houston back to close out the 2017 season, and I was pleasantly surprised when he racked up four sacks in five games. I doubt the Bears bring him back, but I would be fine with it if they did.
Howard Jones - Signed through 2018 - Jones got a sack in the four games he appeared in. He started the season on the practice squad and numerous injuries at his position got him promoted. He only played in 41 total snaps and he’s a long shot to make the 2018 team.
Isaiah Irving - Signed through 2018 - Irving flashed last preseason, and he received a promotion from the practice squad in October. But like so many other Bears in 2017, he ended up on season ending injured reserve. He did play in seven games, with 41 snaps on defense and another 90 on special teams. I would imagine he’s a practice squad candidate again in 2018.
2018 OUTLOOK - The Bears need a young, speedy edge rusher in the NFL Draft. If they want to grab one in the first round they could go with Marcus Davenport of UTSA, Tremaine Edmunds of Virginia Tech, or if he somehow falls to them at No. 8 overall, Bradley Chubb, of N.C. State.
Some scouts have Chubb more as a 4-3 defensive end, but he’s athletic enough to stand up and play from a two-point stance. Davenport may have the highest ceiling of the top prospects, but there’s always a risk with small school players. Edmunds is a guy that may shoot up the mock boards as we get closer to the actual draft.
The value to grab an outside linebacker may not be at No. 8 overall, but the Bears need to come away with a plug and play pass rusher at some point in the draft.
In free agency there aren’t many home runs out there. The Chargers’ Jerry Attaochu could be looking for more playing time, but his career trajectory seems similar to that of Sam Acho’s. Denver’s Shaquil Barrett and Kansas City’s Dee Ford would both bring some speed off the edge. Barrett seems like an ascending player at 25-years old, and the 26-year old Ford had a 10 sack season just two years ago.
The veteran names are sexier, Julius Peppers, James Harrison, and Dwight Freeney, but they are also much older.