The Chicago Bears sit at 3-6 at the halfway point of the season. The offense has shown a lot of positive signs, especially Quarterback Justin Fields, who looks like a future superstar.
That being said, there are still weak points on this team, especially defensively. There are a lot of players on this roster on one-year to “prove-it deals”. The Bears have approximately $120 million in cap space available to spend to improve their roster in free agency. Here are 5 players at 5 different positions that the Bears would be wise to spend their money on.
1. Colts LB Bobby Okereke
The Bears traded Roquan Smith. With that, linebacker quickly becomes a huge need. I’d like to see Nicholas Morrow brought back, but the Bears need better players at this position, it’s that simple. Bobby Okereke is a really solid Inside Linebacker who has familiarity with Bears Head Coach and former Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus’ scheme. This is a position the Bears will add to via free agency, as opposed to the draft. Eberflus doesn’t seem to value off ball linebackers with high draft picks. He was asked last week if the Colts were considering drafting Roquan Smith at 5, which is where Indianapolis ended up drafting star Guard Quenton Nelson, and Eberflus said “I don’t think we were in the business of taking an off ball Linebacker at number 5 overall”. Okereke will likely have about a market value of about $10 million per year, so the contract the Bears sign him to will be likely 3 years $30 million or 4 years $40 million.
2. Chiefs WR Juju Smith Schuster
This would be an absolute home run. Juju is a plug and play slot receiver for Justin Fields to get the ball to. It might be a long shot that the Chiefs let Juju walk, considering how strongly he’s come on over the last month. That being said, if I were the Bears with all of this extra money, I’d be comfortable overpaying for a guy like that. He’s not a prototypical slot WR. He’s bigger than almost every slot WR except for Cooper Kupp of the Rams and Tyler Boyd of the Bengals. Juju was targeted this offseason by Bears GM Ryan Poles, but he was a lot cheaper in the 2022 offseason than he will be in the 2023 offseason, due to him missing almost the entire 2021 season. A contract for Juju Smith-Schuster could be somewhere in the $12-15 million range in terms of average annual value.
3. Packers OL Elgton Jenkins
Elgton Jenkins is one of the best players who could hit free agency this offseason. He’s probably the most versatile offensive lineman in the NFL. Jenkins would be a plug and play guy at the Right Tackle position. His knowledge of Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy’s scheme makes him an obvious and clear target. The same is true for the previously listed Bobby Okereke. One of the hardest parts about joining a new team in any capacity is learning the playbook and scheme. Him signing with the Bears would eliminate that aspect. I view the Bears as having 2 holes on the offensive line at Center and Right Tackle. Sam Mustipher and more so Larry Borom have not met expectations this season, so moving on from them in a year where they have $120 million dollars in cap space as well as a good number of draft picks should be an easy call for this front office.
4. Browns CB Greedy Williams
Greedy Williams isn’t having a great year in Cleveland with the Browns this year as a slot Cornerback. However, Matt Eberflus runs a scheme that makes corners play better than they really are. Two examples are Xavier Rhodes in 2020 with the Colts as well as Kindle Vildor this year with the Bears. Williams will be available for relatively cheap. Saving money shouldn’t be the Bears driving force this offseason, but when a player like Williams becomes available for cheap, there’s not a high price tag and the Bears have the money to spend on free agents. It feels like a move the Bears would be wise to make.
5. Commanders DT D’Ayron Payne
At the trade deadline the Washington Commanders made it known that stud DT D’Ayron Payne was available for trade. Nobody made the move and he’s still a Commander. It certainly looks like a situation headed towards a breakup. With Payne likely being available, I’d be shocked if Ryan Poles isn’t hard pressed to get him in the building. Head Coach Matt Eberflus says the foundation of his defense is a 3 technique on the defensive line. They have Justin Jones who’s played fine, but he’s certainly replaceable. In fact, I think with a player like Payne playing next to him, Jones could improve to be a really good player on the defensive line. The secondary is playing well, but the secondary play will improve with good penetration from the defensive line.