In true Thanksgiving fashion, there has to be some monstrosity combining all of the good things into one conglomerate dish. The NFL mock offseason is the turducken of football content.
Nevertheless, I love the offseason, and with the Bears having made several major moves since my last mock offseason, I figured now would be a great time to take a look at what 2023 free agency and the NFL Draft could have in store for Chicago.
Let’s dive into my latest mock offseason for the Bears in the 2023 offseason.
Starting cap space: $125,305,758
DE Al-Quadin Muhammad ($4 million)
OG/C Lucas Patrick ($3.9 million)
These are the same cuts I made in my last mock offseason, and I’ll stick with them here. Both Muhammad and Patrick have underwhelmed since arriving in Chicago.
Updated cap space: $133,205,758
- WR Equanimeous St. Brown: 1 year, $1.9 million
- S DeAndre Houston-Carson: 1 year, $1.4 million
- DT Mike Pennel: 1 year, $1.03 million
- LS Patrick Scales: 1 year, $1.03 million
- LB Joe Thomas: 1 year, $1.03 million
- LB Matt Adams: 1 year, $1.03 million
- FB Khari Blasingame: 1 year, $965,000
- CB Josh Blackwell (ERFA); 1 year, $895,000
- CB Lamar Jackson (ERFA): 1 year, $895,000
I will be letting David Montgomery walk, among other prospective free agents. The players I have decided to re-sign are generally depth pieces to minimum deals. Given St. Brown’s value as a blocker and Houston-Carson’s value as a special teamer, I forked over a little extra money to keep them around.
Updated cap space: $122,930,758
Free agent signings
Note: I’m aware some of these players might not hit free agency, but they’re slated to do so as of this writing, so I’m putting them anyway. Shut up. Also, I’m using their AAV over the course of each player’s contract as the cap hit. I’m not smart enough to determine how to structure a contract, so these numbers will likely be off from what they’ll end up being in real life.
CB Jamel Dean: 4 years, $70 million ($17.5 million AAV), $31.5 million guaranteed
The highest paid free agent of the Bears’ class being a cornerback? It’s not the biggest need on their roster, but Dean is a top-notch talent who fits the athletic profile the new regime wants to install. Plus, with Jaylon Johnson’s contract expiring in 2024, you can either lock up an elite duo with Kyler Gordon in the slot or ensure the cornerback room stays strong if they don’t bring back Johnson.
DT Daron Payne: 4 years, $65.2 million ($16.3 million AAV), $43.5 million guaranteed
An explosive 3-technique defensive tackle who can generate pressure along the interior is precisely what Matt Eberflus loves. Payne seems like a fair bet to hit the open market, and he’s a young and athletic monster who would instantly be an anchor for Chicago’s defensive line.
DE Marcus Davenport: 3 years, $48 million ($16 million AAV), $27.8 million guaranteed
Davenport is having a down year in terms of sacks, but he’s remained one of the most reliable edge rushers in the NFL in terms of generating pressure and making his presence felt in the backfield. He’s an absurd athlete who, at 26, still likely has his best football ahead of him.
RT Elgton Jenkins: 4 years, $55.6 million ($13.9 million AAV), $40.2 million guaranteed
This signing just makes too much sense. The Packers will have to get creative to be able to afford to extend Jenkins, and given his youth, his reliability over the course of his NFL career, and his ties to Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, he seems like an obvious tie to Chicago. An argument could be made he’s the best offensive lineman on the open market, and since right tackles are absurdly underpaid compared to left tackles, the Bears could get a stud for their offensive line at a reasonable price.
C Ethan Pocic: 2 years, $13.5 million ($6.75 million AAV), $9 million guaranteed
Perhaps few upcoming free agents have boosted their stock like Pocic has this year. He has had a tremendous 83.0 PFF grade so far this season with the Browns. His time with the Seahawks was up and down, so a reasonable out after Year 1 would be ideal in case he’s a one-year wonder, but if he isn’t, he could be a fantastic upgrade at center.
DE Dawuane Smoot: 2 years, $13 million ($6.5 million AAV), $10.4 million guaranteed
Smoot has been a reliable rotational pass-rusher for the Jaguars for each of the last four years, but signing with the Bears gives him a chance to solidify a starting role as an edge rusher. He is an explosive defender whose ability to generate pressure would make him a valuable addition to Chicago’s defense.
LB Leighton Vander Esch: 2 years, $10.8 million ($5.4 million AAV), $7.6 million guaranteed
He’s had some ups and downs during his time with Dallas, but the flashes Vander Esch has displayed have been remarkable. He’s a fantastic athlete for his size who would add a level of athleticism to the Bears’ second level of defense.
TE Hayden Hurst: 2 years, $8.2 million ($4.1 million AAV), $5 million guaranteed
It doesn’t seem like a bad idea to add another tight end to the Bears’ offense to complement an ascending Cole Kmet. Hurst is a reliable pass-catcher who adds an element of athleticism and provides more schematic versatility.
S J.T. Gray: 1 year, $3.5 million, $2.7 million guaranteed
Gray is one of the best special teamers in the NFL today. It may take a little bit extra money to lure him away from New Orleans, and one might say this is a bit steep for someone whose value comes mostly on special teams, but if any team could afford to pay him a little extra this offseason, it’s the Bears.
WR Justin Watson: 1 year, $1.5 million, $875,000 guaranteed
Watson is a size-speed mismatch who, although he doesn’t make the biggest impact for an offense, fits the Bears’ mold of a backup ‘X’ receiver and could battle for a roster spot.
Updated cap space: $47,480,758
7-round mock draft
Note: This mock draft was simulated using the NFL Mock Draft Database draft simulator. The order used is reflective of the draft order as of Nov. 17. Expected cap hit numbers are calculated by Spotrac for the first round and use 2022 NFL Draft cap hits for the remainder of the selections.
Bears receive: No. 12 pick, No. 45 pick, 2024 fourth-round pick; Falcons receive: No. 6 pick
The 5 players picked before me at No. 6 were C.J. Stroud, Jalen Carter, Will Anderson, Myles Murphy and Peter Skoronski. There were talented players I could’ve picked if I stayed put — I missed out on the likes of Bryan Bresee and Quentin Johnston by trading back — but moving back seemed like a smart move here.
Even though I was very aggressive in filling needs in free agency, I wanted to acquire additional draft capital to bring in more young talent and improve immediate depth. The Falcons were the team I traded with, and the trade allowed them to jump the likes of the Seahawks and Lions to trade Bryce Young.
Round 1 (via Falcons): Jordan Addison, WR, USC
I strongly considered Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson here, but I found myself coming back to a wide receiver in Round 1. Addison is a precise route runner with an electric skill set, and drafting him would give the Bears a diverse and deep group of wide receivers to work with.
Round 2 (via Falcons): Siaki Ika, DL, Baylor
I got extremely lucky that Ika fell to me in the middle of Round 2, but if the Falcons lose a few more games, this pick could end up being an early-round selection. Ika is a freak athlete as a 1-technique defensive tackle with both insane quickness and absurd power for a defender who’s 6-foot-4 and 358 pounds.
Round 2 (via Ravens): Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
I expect Campbell to test very well for his size, which should firmly put him on Ryan Poles’ radar. He’s a big-bodied linebacker at 6-foot-5 and 246 pounds who is physical stacking and shedding blocks but is also quite quick as a downhill tackler.
Round 3: Adetomiwa Adebawore, EDGE, Northwestern
Watching Adebawore against Ohio State a few weeks ago was one of the most impressive 0-sack outings I’ve seen in quite some time. His quickness at 280 pounds, raw power at the point of attack, improving pass-rushing arsenal and high motor could see him develop into a solid starting edge rusher in due time.
Round 4: Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA
Why Charbonnet is generally projected as an early Day 3 talent is confusing to me. He has been insanely productive this season, and his thunderous style of running blended with good open-field speed would make him a great complement to Khalil Herbert in the Bears’ backfield.
Round 4 (via Eagles): Cade Stover, TE, Ohio State
Stover might be the best blocking tight end I’ve watched in the 2023 pre-draft process. He’s raw as a route runner, having started off his collegiate career as a defensive end and a linebacker, but he’s a tenacious run blocker with great play strength and sneaky speed.
Round 5: Bo Nix, QB, Oregon
There’s a chance Nix returns to Oregon for the 2023 season, but his improvement this year in terms of his accuracy and poise has been impressive. Combine that with his athleticism and arm strength, and you have an intriguing backup prospect whose tools make him a nice enough continuity fit with Fields.
Round 5 (via Ravens): Gottlieb Ayedze, OT, Frostburg State
Ayedze just got invited to the Senior Bowl, so it’s only a matter of time before the rest of draft circles begin to pick up on him. He’s raw in terms of his pad level and processing ability, but he’s a great athlete at offensive tackle who’s coordinated and has some intriguing physical tools to work with.
Round 7: Jadakis Bonds, WR, Hampton
Bonds is a 6-foot-4, 200-pound weapon with very good deep speed and stellar ball skills. As raw as he is as a technician, he has some serious potential to work with if he’s coached up properly.
Estimated cap hit: $11,051,785
Updated cap space for 90-man roster signings: $36,428,973
QB (3): Justin Fields, Trevor Siemian, Bo Nix
RB (4): Khalil Herbert, Zach Charbonnet, Trestan Ebner, Khari Blasingame
WR (6): Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Jordan Addison, Velus Jones Jr., Equanimeous St. Brown, Justin Watson/Jadakis Bonds
TE (3): Cole Kmet, Hayden Hurst, Cade Stover
OL (8): Braxton Jones, Cody Whitehair, Ethan Pocic, Teven Jenkins, Elgton Jenkins, Larry Borom, Alex Leatherwood, Gottlieb Ayedze/Ja’Tyre Carter/Doug Kramer
DT (4): Daron Payne, Siaki Ika, Justin Jones, Mike Pennel
DE (5): Marcus Davenport, Dawuane Smoot, Trevis Gipson, Adetomiwa Adebawore, Dominique Robinson
LB (5): Leighton Vander Esch, Jack Campbell, Jack Sanborn, Joe Thomas, Matt Adams/Sterling Weatherford
CB (5): Jamel Dean, Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, Kindle Vildor, Jaylon Jones/Josh Blackwell/Lamar Jackson
S (5): Eddie Jackson, Jaquan Brisker, J.T. Gray, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Elijah Hicks
ST (3): Cairo Santos, Trenton Gill, Patrick Scales
Is this pie-in-the-sky roster management? Maybe. The odds that the Bears actually sign all of the players I’ve added in this mock offseason are slim to none. That said, this exercise primarily goes to show how stacked Chicago’s resources are this offseason.
Being able to genuinely afford several of the top free agents out on the open market and still have plenty of money to work with is an enviable situation that most general managers would kill to have. There’s a difference between being aggressive in free agency and being carelessly stupid, but Ryan Poles has a massive opportunity to be the former.