Look, we’re at the bye of a 4-8 team. The Chicago Bears haven’t been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but all that does is conjure up the GIF of Jim Carrey from Dumb & Dumber, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
This team is moving on to 2024. There are 8,000 questions that need to be answered. Who will be the coach? Who will be the offensive coordinator? Who will be the quarterback? So to select players without knowing what type of scheme a new coach would want to run is silly, a waste of time and something straight out of a Madden video game, so why not have some fun and do it anyway?
The Bears have some holes, those holes are going to exist regardless of what kind of coach is here and what kind of scheme he will want to run offensively and defensively.
The expectation here is Eddie Jackson and Cody Whitehair will be released and Jaylon Johnson will be on the franchise tag. Those moves will give the Bears about $85 million in cap space remaining.
The Bears will either have Justin Fields or they’ll have a rookie QB. There’s no impact on free agent pursuits there. So let’s take a look at five free agent the Bears should sign and beef up the holes remaining on Ryan Poles roster.
Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Tackle
Let’s just start with a splash. Chris Jones has accomplished just about everything there is to do in his career and at this point, he can retire and await his name to be called to Canton. But Jones will be 30 next year and he isn’t finished. And there’s something Jones wants— to be paid. That’s something that I think the Kansas City Chiefs choose not to do.
Jones may consider his situation if offers are similar, but he seems to want a large contract that reflects what he’s accomplished. If the Bears want to add a serious interior disruptor to their defense, they just need to pay Jones a lot of money, like more than $30 million per year. They have the funds to do it, so go do it and elevate your defense to another level.
Contract guess: 3 years, $95 million, $75 million guaranteed
Bryce Huff, New York Jets Edge
Bryce Huff has been one of the most underrated pash rushers over the last couple of years. The Jets have a loaded defense, especially at edge, and Huff hasn’t been able to get enough snap counts to put some stats on paper and really get heads turning.
But the league knows how impactful he can be. Think of the Bears defensive line with Montez Sweat, Chris Jones, Gervon Dexter and DeMarcus Walker, and then Huff comes in on passing downs when Walker bumps inside. You’ll also have Andrew Billings rotating in along the defensive front and Zacch Pickens for additional depth. This would make the Bears defensive line a strength instead of a weakness and it would turn the Bears defense into one of the top units in the league. Huff won’t be cheap, if the Bears do sign him, prepare for some sticker shock.
Contract guess: 4 years, $64 million, $33 million guaranteed
Geno Stone, Baltimore Ravens Safety
This would be the final piece of the Bears’ defense. I love Eddie Jackson, but I believe he is finishing his final year in Chicago. He’s arguably the weakest defender in the secondary now and he’s struggling to stay healthy.
Stone could be had at a much more affordable rate and should, at minimum, equal Jackson’s production and keep the center of the secondary stabilized. This defense would be an elite unit with these three additions and they would still have money left over to spend on offense.
Contract guess: 3 years, $27 million, $15 million guaranteed
Connor Williams, Miami Dolphins Center
The Miami Dolphins are going to spend the offseason trying to keep together as much of this team as possible. Which is why I think Chris Jones would be the defensive tackle target and not Christian Wilkins, who I believe will receive the franchise tag from Miami.
One player that probably won’t be able to be kept is center Connor Williams. Williams has been a solid center for Miami over the last two seasons after coming over from Dallas. If you like PFF grades, Williams is the top graded center this year. He’s the league’s top rated run blocking center and PFF has him as the 15th best pass blocker. He’d also be a veteran center that could handle line calls and take that pressure off Justin Fields or a rookie quarterback.
Contract guess: 4 years, $52 million, $30 million guaranteed
Marquise Brown, Arizona Cardinals Wide Receiver
Brown is an odd case. There was a lot of talk about him becoming an elite weapon in the NFL, but it never really came to fruition. Brown has proven he’s a solid receiving asset with speed to beat defensive backs deep, but he certainly isn’t a WR1.
The idea of pairing Brown with DJ Moore and still being in position to get an elite WR in the top 10 of the 2024 NFL Draft and have Tyler Scott at WR4 would give the Bears a strong receiving group that could really give defenses trouble. Brown won’t be cheap, but he won’t have an astronomical number either. The Bears would be able to sign someone of this caliber to replace Darnell Mooney who will want to test free agency rather than remain with the Bears.
Contract guess: 3 years, $36 million, $20 million guaranteed
Colby Parkinson, Seattle Seahawks Tight End
Yes, the Chicago Bears are set at tight end with Cole Kmet. But odds are both Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan won’t return in 2024. The Bears will need a new back-up tight end and Parkinson could be exactly who they need.
Parkinson is 6-7 and could be a huge target in the Bears passing game. He also has great speed and has beefed up and has started to become a respectable blocker. He could be a great guy to utilize in 12 personnel with Kmet. Parkinson’s development has been slowed by injuries, so the Bears may be able to get a rising star on an affordable contract and help get more weapons on offense.
Contract guess: 3 years, $21 million, $12 million guaranteed