The Chicago Bears went into the 2023 offseason with a boatload of money and needs all over their roster. Speculation and expectations were that they'd attack the trenches, but it was linebacker where they made the first splash by signing T.J. Edwards to a 3-year contract worth $19.5 million and $7.9 million guaranteed. They double-dipped at the position with two-time Pro Bowler Tremaine Edmunds (4-year/$72M with $50M guaranteed), and he's obviously very important to Chicago's defense as well, but it's Edwards that is moving into a new role this year.
Last year T.J. manned the middle of Philly's defense as their play caller, but this year he'll be lining up as the Bears' Will with Tremaine at the Mike. While Edwards has some experience playing the weakside linebacker spot during his four years in Philadelphia, his break out 2022 with a career-high 159 tackles was at the Mike with the green dot. He wasn't wearing the Captain’s patch, but he was the man leading that defense by making the calls, the presnap adjustments, and getting his teammates lined up.
All he’s done since being an undrafted free agent from Wisconsin in 2019 is improve every year. His lack of elite athleticism is the reason he went undrafted, but he’s one of the most cerebral players in the game and that lets him diagnose and play faster than his timed speed would suggest.
He really came into his own last year as a player and a leader, and that didn’t go unnoticed by his Philadelphia teammates.
“T.J. has been a really big part, he had a great year last year and he’s been a guy that you’ve seen get better every single year,” Eagles’ pro bowo center Jason Kelce said a few months ago. “You’ve seen that improvement. He’s a smart player, he’s instinctive. You know when you’re playing certain guys early in their career and you can just tell that they get it? They react to things well. He has great feel for the game of football. Obviously would’ve loved to have him back in Philadelphia, but T.J.’s gonna do great over there in Chicago.”
He grew up about an hour north of Chicago as a Bears fan, he grew up watching Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs do special things in the Windy City, and now has has a chance to be a part of the Bears’ return to defensive greatness.
“It’s a high standard here and it’s something that you want to be a part of because the defenses here are built strong.” Edwards said in a recent interview with SirusXM,
While he did have 30 starts in 44 games during his first three seasons with the Eagles, last year was his first going wire to wire as and unquestioned starter on that defense and he feels his best is yet to come.
If Edwards continues his ascension, and can be the Briggs to Edmunds’ Urlacher, the defense will make a significant jump in productivity from a year ago.
“There are so many things I can do to improve my game, the 26 year old Edwards said on 670 The Score in March. “I think I’m just scratching the surface. I’m excited about where my game is headed.”
What are you guys expecting from Edwards in 2023?