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2023 Bears offseason: Free agency wishlist

What free agents does WCG’s Lead Draft Analyst want the Bears to sign this offseason?

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NFL: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

The new NFL league year starts a week from today, and by all accounts, it runs through Chicago.

Armed with the most cap space in the league and the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Bears have a tremendous amount of resources they can spend to turn their franchise around. The hope isn’t that general manager Ryan Poles will be reckless with his money, necessarily, but that he will dish out his fair share of cash in contracts this offseason.

With several high-profile needs and numerous talented players slated to hit the open market, the Bears have the chance to improve considerably in free agency. Here are some of the top free agents I would like them to consider signing.

Colts LB Bobby Okereke

One of the worst-kept secrets about the Bears’ offseason is their interest in Okereke.

Besides the obvious ties to Chicago head coach Matt Eberflus from the coach’s time in Indianapolis, Okereke is an ascending talent who turns 27 years old in June. He is an athletic linebacker with tremendous arm length who has experience playing all of SAM, MIKE and WILL. Arguably his best season came in 2022 as the Colts’ WILL, so he may fit best there should he come to Chicago. Signing the young and productive Okereke for roughly half what the Ravens paid Roquan Smith would be a good look for the Bears.

Falcons RT Kaleb McGary

Mike McGlinchey would make sense as a free agent target for the Bears, but with the Falcons choosing to not extend the franchise tag towards McGary, he seems like a perfect fit with what Chicago wants to do.

McGary had an 86.6 PFF grade for the Falcons in 2022, which is absurdly good. He’s very athletic for a player who’s 6-foot-7, and he graded as the second-best run blocking offensive tackle in the entire NFL. He also has ties to Bears offensive line coach Chris Morgan, under whom he played in Atlanta in the first two seasons of his professional career. I have varying minor concerns about every top tackle — including McGary, McGlinchey, Jawaan Taylor and Orlando Brown Jr. — but McGary is the best combination of scheme fit and upside to me.

Colts DE Yannick Ngakoue

Simply put, the Bears had issues rushing the passer last year. Why not fix that by adding one of the most reliable pass-rushing ends over the last half-decade?

Nobody’s going to mistake Ngakoue as a run-stopping machine. Adding just him won’t fix the entirety of Chicago’s defensive line. However, it will give them a top-notch pass rusher who has tallied at least 8 sacks in every season he’s played in the NFL. Regardless of which team he plays for and what system he’s in, he simply has a knack for getting to the quarterback. The Bears’ leader in sacks off the edge had just 3 sacks last year. Signing Ngakoue assures that won’t happen again.

Broncos DT Dre’Mont Jones

The Bears will surely be in the market for a defensive tackle — or two, or three — this offseason. Though Javon Hargrave might provide the bigger immediate upgrade, Jones might be a more realistic target.

Jones has the advantage of being nearly 4 years younger than Hargrave, which could be enough to entice the Bears to tie long-term money to him over his peer on the open market. The Ohio State alumnus had 6.5 sacks in 13 games for the Broncos this year, and he’s an athletic interior defender who can rush the passer from both inside and outside alignments. Jones would be a smart investment as the intimidating 3-technique defensive tackle the Bears lacked in 2022.

Browns C Ethan Pocic

Should the Bears want to secure a center in free agency rather than rely on the draft for a new starter, their best bet will probably end up being Pocic.

My top center hitting the free agent market in the 2023 offseason, Pocic graded as a top center in the NFL in 2022 in his one season with the Browns. He brings good length and speed — especially for an interior blocker — and he has improved considerably over each of his last 3 seasons. Though it helped to have Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller on opposite sides of him, joining a Bears offense that will surely invest additional capital into their offensive line and playing in an offensive line-friendly run scheme should be enticing.

Buccaneers CB Jamel Dean

This signing admittedly seems a bit unlikely. That said, the Bears need one more starting cornerback to completely solidify their secondary, and Dean is the best free agent cornerback on the market.

In his 4 seasons in Tampa Bay, Dean has had 7 interceptions and 41 pass deflections. He’s a freak athlete who allowed a completion percentage of just 55.4% in 2022. He has arguably been at least an above-average cornerback from a statistics perspective over the course of his NFL career. The Buccaneers find themselves in a position where they’ve lost leverage to keep their top talents, and if the Bears want to collect all the Infinity Stones for their secondary, Dean would be a great addition.