With the Chicago Bears having SO MANY options in free agency, I had to break my Free Agency Extravaganza into several parts, so click here for the kickoff of the series, my look at the defensive line and linebackers, and read on for my look at the secondary.
Cornerbacks and Nickels
Biggest names: Marcus Peters; James Bradberry; Jonathan Jones; Patrick Peterson; Emmanuel Mosely
Best fits: Jonathan Jones; James Bradberry; Rock Ya-Sin
Possible Trade and/or Cut Target(s): Byron Jones; Xavien Howard
Ultimately the path for this position group will be determined by whatever decision Matt Eberflus and Alan Williams make with young DB Kyler Gordon. Is he going to be a boundary corner full-time in 2023? Or is he going to be a nickel?
If he’s the guy to pair with Jaylon Johnson on the boundary, then I don’t see a lot of big moves being made here. Mostly depth signings and perhaps a mid-round pick to shore this group up. Perhaps a mid-tier deal will happen at nickel as well.
If they decide Kyler Gordon is a nickel, then game on. I also think more experienced players at cornerback and nickel will be added in comparison to others.
Marcus Peters stands to be the single biggest name available on the open market. However, a recent streak of injuries as he’s turning 30 will likely give GM Ryan Poles and the Bears some pause when considering an offer. He’s without question the most productive and accomplished corner to hit the open market. I’m just not sure what kind of deal to realistically offer someone of his caliber that also faces real durability issues.
The free agent market, as it stands, is relatively soft aside from the names I highlighted. There are familiar names to consider with Matt Eberflus included. The most recognizable of which is Rock Ya-Sin, who started off on the wrong foot with Matt Eberflus in Indianapolis before settling in as a solid starter.
Once Matt left for the Bears’ HC job, the new staff on defense led by Gus Bradley did not see Rock Ya-Sin as a fit. He was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders on the final year of his rookie contract. Rock’s value would be up to a two-year deal up to $5M per year, although it’s likely he can be signed to just a 1-year “prove it” deal.
For the “splashy” option, there’s the seasoned Jonathan Jones. He’s coming off a career-best season with the New England Patriots, totaling four interceptions and 11 passes defensed as he hits the free agent market. I do feel the Patriots will attempt to keep him, although there are quite a few key players coming off contract in Foxboro.
Schematically he would complement Jaylon Johnson well, although he will be turning 30 this season. I feel Jonathan Jones’ experience will be desirable to the Bears at the same time. He’s likely going to seek at least a 3-year deal with mostly guaranteed money and over $40M in value.
Emmanuel Mosely has ascended into being one of the better young corners in the league after signing with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2018. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in October and may not be fully prepared to return by training camp.
Still, he’s one of the highly talented players teams will take a chance on. The 49ers will look to re-sign him, with competition from the Houston Texans being likely with former 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans’ return as their new head coach. Mosely could be a sneaky good signing by the Bears if they look to add competition into their secondary with a low-risk flyer.
Byron Jones, who played at an elite level for the Dallas Cowboys before signing with the Miami Dolphins as a free agent in 2020, might be getting cut soon. Vic Fangio’s arrival to the Miami Dolphins will guarantee many changes are coming to their secondary. For Byron Jones, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” he gets cut.
He’s not quite the same guy he was in Dallas, yet his familiarity with Matt Eberflus and a still-respectable level of play can bring some much-needed help to an inexperienced secondary. If he’s being brought in as a starter adjacent from Jaylon Jones, then a 2-to-3-year mid tier deal for around $5M per year makes sense.
Then there is the improbable dream scenario of landing Xavien Howard. Much like Byron Jones, Xavien Howard now faces some uncertainty with how Vic Fangio will utilize him. Is he destined for more playing time at nickel? Does Vic Fangio try to make it work at boundary corner? Or do the Dolphins look to move him for more assets? I don’t believe the Bears will be realistic players in this sweepstakes, but if they do get him... my goodness.
Biggest names: Jessie Bates III; Jordan Poyer; Jimmie Ward; Adrian Amos; Devin McCourtey; Vonn Bell; Eric Rowe
Best fits: Jabrill Peppers; Damontae Kazee; DeAndre Houston-Carson
Possible Trade and/or Cut Target(s): N/A
This is the one position group I do not see anything significant happening with. At all. The Bears are set for the long term with a renaissance type season for Eddie Jackson and the emergence of a young star in Jaquan Brisker. Only one event would change this line of thought - the Bears moving on from Eddie Jackson and his fairly large contract.
Which is not happening. There’s no reason even to consider that. Just re-sign DeAndre Houston-Carson, maybe draft a promising player between rounds 4 and 7, and call it a day.
It’s an embarrassment of riches at safety, too. You have no fewer than two All-Pro caliber players potentially hitting the market between Jessie Bates III and Jordan Poyer. Both the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills have tried to keep their respective stars from leaving town, yet both franchises have been unsuccessful so far. If either of them hits the market, I can’t imagine how insane their bidding wars will become. Both Bates and Poyer should land 5-year mega contracts by the time this offseason is over.
Jabrill Peppers is an intriguing option as he could fit the role of a “heavy nickel” the Bears tried to utilize at times last season. He can play at safety, corner, or linebacker. I see another 1-year “prove it” incentive-laden deal of $4M in his future.
Now, if we’re being greedy here for the Chicago Bears, then adding Damontae Kazee as a 3rd safety could also make some actual sense. He’s gone from potential stardom with the Atlanta Falcons to some seriously bad luck in his final year at Atlanta and short stops between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. I’d consider the same offer here as I suggested for Jabrill Peppers.
It’s quite funny to see Adrian Amos hit the market as the Green Bay Packers face salary cap hell. The former Chicago Bear will always have a soft spot in my heart, and he is still a damn good starter in this league. He’ll likely land a 3-year deal of up to $25M in value.
If you made it this far...
Congrats! Next up, we’ll look at the offensive side of the ball, which is what everyone wants to see for the Chicago Bears. It certainly will feature plenty of action and moves, but... well, stay tuned.