This position group was due a massive makeover this offseason, and with the report of Al-Quadin Muhammad being released, the Chicago Bears got an early start on the process. Not one of the players that started games for the Bears on the defensive line last year should be back starting in 2023. There are a few players that could fill a rotational role, but Chicago desperately needs more talent and production from this group.
In this 12-part series, I'll list the contract status of all the current Chicago players on a position-by-position basis while speculating on some offseason moves that could happen.
Justin Jones - Signed through 2023 - The Bears started to move Jones around their d-line last year, which may be the kind of versatility the team needs to see to keep him around. He was their best d-lineman a year ago, but the Bears need an upgrade at the three-technique defensive tackle. Jones' cap hit in 2023 is $7.4 million, which is rather large for a reserve, but with Chicago having so much cap space, that might be a hit they're okay with. If the Bears want to create even more money for 2023 by cutting Jones, that will give them $4.9 million.
Trevis Gipson - Signed through 2023 - Gipson didn't build off his 2021 when he had 7 sacks and 5 forced fumbles playing with an uber-productive Robert Quinn opposite him. Gipson, who will be 26 this summer, may be best suited as a rotational edge, but a big 2023 (his contract year) could land him a solid payday somewhere.
Dominique Robinson - Signed through 2025 - Robinson is still learning how to play defensive end, but his athleticism could lead to a big boost in production in 2023 if he has a strong offseason working on his craft.
Armon Watts - Free agent - Watts played in all 17 games last year with 12 starts, and he had 35 tackles and a sack. He'll turn 27 in July, and I could see him back to compete for a reserve role as his contract won't be for much at all.
Angelo Blackson - Free agent - Blackson is out of contract, but there is a void year left at $500,000 still due. He's always seemed like a do-the-dirty-work type of player, but my guess is the Bears will let him walk.
Mike Pennel Jr. - Free agent - Pennell played decently for the Bears a season ago, but they should be looking for better and younger DT depth.
Andrew Brown - Restricted free agent - The four-year vet made it into 5 games last year for the Bears.
Jalyn Holmes - Signed through 2023 - Holmes (6'5", 283), a 2022 practice squadder, was signed to the active roster for their season finale. He has 10 starts in his 5-year career.
Gerri Green - Signed through 2023 - The Bears signed Green (6'4", 250) to a reserve/futures contract after he spent much of last year on their practice squad. He did appear in their week 10 game against Detroit for 7 snaps.
Donovan Jeter - Signed through 2023 - The Bears are Jeter's (6'3", 325) third NFL team since being a UDFA out of Michigan in 2022 by the Steelers.
Andre Anthony - Free agent - Anthony was on Chicago's practice squad injured reserve list most of last season.
Al-Quadin Muhammad - Signed through 2023 - The Bears let him go (link), and cutting him clears nearly $4 million in cap space.
2023 OUTLOOK - Of the returning players, Jones could be a nice rotational piece due to his versatility, Robinson is raw and still learning his place as an NFL edge, and Gipson may have maxed out as a backup defensive end. And other than those three, this entire d-line room needs a makeover. I would not be surprised if there were four new starters in week one.
The NFL Draft should bring new interior and edge players, with Georgia's Jalen Carter (DT) and Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. (DE) as the top two at their respective positions. We've already done a lot on the d-line prospects here at WCG, so check out our draft section for more on them.
In free agency, there are several d-line options for the Bears, including Washington's Daron Payne (DT), Denver's Dre'Mont Jones (DT), the Colts' Yannick Ngakoue (DE), Philadelphia's Javon Hargrave (DT), the Saints' Marcus Davenport (DE) to name a few. We've done a bunch of stuff on them that you can check out in our free agency section.
I'm guessing three-technique defensive tackle will be Chicago's number 1 or 1a priority in free agency, with Payne as their top option if he's not re-signed by the Commanders.
How aggressively do you think the Bears will attack their defensive line this offseason?