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2023 NFL free agency: Offensive options for Bears to consider

Which impending free agents could the Bears consider on the offensive side of the ball this offseason?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t you just love the NFL offseason?

As a Bears fan, there’s nothing I’ve come to love more than the concept of building a roster through both free agency and the draft with the desire to improve upon the previous year and fill up holes on your roster. It’s the one time a year when everyone’s excited for the future, and considering my favorite team’s lack of success in recent years, sometimes the future can be the only exciting thing to look forward to.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Bears have an insane abundance of resources to upgrade their roster this offseason. We’ve talked a bit about their having the No. 1 pick, and there will be plenty of draft coverage to come from me and the rest of the WCG staff. That said, I wanted to take some time to look towards the more recent future and analyze NFL free agency.

It’s worth noting that there are many other talented offensive free agents slated to hit the open market in 2023, and this list doesn’t encompass every single available player. Rather, this list is to highlight some of the notable prospects who are both among the top players at their respective positions and could fit well in the Bears’ offensive scheme.

With that said, here are some of my top offensive options for the Bears in 2023 free agency.

All contract estimates come from Spotrac.

Falcons RT Kaleb McGary

Spotrac market value: $17.7 million

Perhaps no offensive lineman boosted his offseason stock like Kaleb McGary did with the Falcons this year.

McGary finished the 2022 season with an 86.6 PFF grade, which placed him 4th among 141 offensive tackles in the NFL and first among all right tackles in the league. From the perspective of advanced analytics like Points Earned per snap, Points Above Average per snap, PAR and WAR, he was also among the best right tackles in the league.

He’s had some ups and downs in his NFL career, and he doesn’t have the long arms the current regime often ogles over. That said, he’s a 98th percentile athlete at his position coming off of one of the best performances from an offensive tackle this year. If the Bears want to splurge on an offensive lineman this offseason, McGary could be a solid option.

49ers RT Mike McGlinchey

Spotrac market value: $10.7 million

I won’t stop until the entire Bears offense consists of Golden Domers.

Advanced analytics weren’t as kind to Mike McGlinchey as they were to McGary this year, but the former still ended up with a quality 71.5 PFF grade. Perhaps most importantly: he’s an experienced, solid starter in an offensive scheme that has plenty of similarities to what the Bears run, especially from a blocking perspective. With Luke Getsy being a grandson of the Kyle Shanahan tree, McGlinchey’s athleticism and size would make him a seamless fit.

The 49ers don’t have a ton of cap space to work with currently, and although they could restructure some deals to afford to re-sign McGlinchey, the Bears would likely be able to give him a much more lucrative contract should he hit the open market. He could be a realistic option who’s slightly cheaper than McGary while still being a significant upgrade at right tackle.

Browns C Ethan Pocic

Spotrac market value: $7.2 million

The Bears are likely to move on from Lucas Patrick as their starting center option in 2023, and though they have contractual control over Sam Mustipher this offseason, they should look to bring in a new name to enter the starting lineup.

Equipped with long arms for an interior blocker, Ethan Pocic is a bigger center who was the third-best center according to PFF leading into Week 18 and finished the year with a 79.2 grade. In Points Earned per snap and Points Above Average per snap, Pocic was a top-10 center in the NFL this year, and he only allowed 2 sacks in pass protection.

After a brutal start to his NFL career, Pocic has come into his own as a reliable center with a very good season this year and a solid campaign in 2021. The Lemont native could be a much-needed upgrade as the anchor of Chicago’s offensive line.

Cowboys RB Tony Pollard

Spotrac market value: $8.4 million

The Bears have a boatload of money this offseason. Why not make a splash?

Yes, paying a running back isn’t always the best business decision, and it’s part of why the team will likely part ways with David Montgomery this offseason. But Tony Pollard is one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL, and with both Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs also on the open market, he could be a relative steal as a free agent signing. Pollard got named to his first Pro Bowl team this year after rushing for 1,007 yards and 9 touchdowns with an impressive 5.2 yards per carry average. He’s also a very good pass-catching running back, something Khalil Herbert has not proven to be to this point.

Pollard only placed 23rd in carries this year because of his splitting time with Ezekiel Elliott, and it’s clear he’s much better than just the 23rd-best running back in the NFL. Though Khalil Herbert will take some touches, Pollard would take on a bigger role with the Bears, who have a run-heavy offense and one of the best-schemed run games in the league. If Chicago pays him enough, it could be a match made in heaven for an offense that needs some more playmakers.

Chiefs WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

Spotrac market value: $9.7 million

The Bears already got one former Steelers wide receiver who’s popular on TikTok; why not get the other?

JuJu Smith-Schuster came back to form in 2022 with the Chiefs, catching 78 passes for 933 yards and 3 touchdowns. The yardage total is the second-highest in a season of his career, trailing just his breakout 2018 campaign. He’s still just 26 years old and has plenty of good football ahead of him, and he has plenty of versatility as both a slot and outside receiver. Playing with Patrick Mahomes certainly helped Smith-Schuster out this year, but he solidified independently that he’s a quality starting wide receiver in the league.

The allure of playing for the Chiefs gives them the edge over many NFL teams in the free agency market, but the Bears are a team with a lot of money that needs offensive improvements. A short-term deal for Smith-Schuster or the next player on this list might be best for the Bears, who have both Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool hitting free agency next year, but if they throw him the bag in 2023, JuJu could be a major upgrade.

Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers

Spotrac market value: $12.5 million

The Bears have their big-bodied weapon in Chase Claypool, their speedster in Darnell Mooney, their gadget backup in Velus Jones Jr., and a solid blocking backup in Equanimeous St. Brown. What they arguably need most now is a laser-sharp route runner, and Jakobi Meyers could fit that bill for them.

Coming off of another solid campaign, Meyers caught 67 passes for 804 yards and a career-high 6 touchdowns for the Patriots. That marks two consecutive seasons in which he has topped the 800-yard mark, and he has led his team in receiving over each of the last three years. He has put up great PFF numbers in each of those last three seasons, and in that timeframe, he hasn’t had a higher drop percentage than 3.2% in a single season.

Meyers isn’t the flashiest wide receiver out there, nor is he the most explosive. However, he’s a sure-handed pass-catcher who can get open very well and can come down with difficult grabs. Whichever team signs him might have to pay more than the listed Spotrac value, but he’s a quality WR2 who makes an offense better by his being in it. For that consistency, he could be a name worth watching for the Bears.