The Chicago Bears suffered through another injury-riddled season in 2017, but no position felt the impact like outside linebacker, where four players ended the season on injured reserve.
ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson breaks down the position for the Bears and offers up a handful of free agents and draft prospects who could be on the team’s radar this offseason. Among them is a linebacker whose draft profile features a jaw-dropping comparison.
Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds is one of the best linebacker prospects of this draft class. Even though he’ll be just 19 on draft day, he has three years of college experience under his belt and shined brightly for the Hokies in his sophomore and junior seasons. Dickerson expects Edmunds, who is described as an athletic freak, to open some eyes at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis that will be coming in February.
And considering he earned a comparison to Bears legend and first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, he better. You can check out Edmunds’ draft profile here, where the following evaluation can be found:
“Edmunds combines elite size, speed and explosiveness into a productive, versatile linebacker package that will have evaluators salivating. Edmunds has posted high-impact production over the last two seasons and he still has room to get bigger and better. Edmunds will make mental mistakes and his instincts are subpar, but he has an ability to mitigate those issues with his athletic ability. Edmunds can play in any alignment at any linebacker spot and has All-Pro potential no matter where he lands.”
Edmunds, who was recently mocked to the Bears with the eighth pick, sounds like the kind of player Vic Fangio would be thrilled to coach and mold into something great. And because of his ability to play inside and out, finding a fit with the Bears isn’t all that difficult. Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman has faced suspensions in each of his first two years with the team, which could ultimately lead to the Bears parting ways with their 2017 Week 1 starter.
There is also a clear need at outside linebacker, where four players (including three experienced NFL starters) finished the 2017 season on injured reserve.
Outside linebackers/edge defenders Lamarr Houston and Sam Acho are set to become free agents when the league’s new year starts in March. That was the starting duo on the edge in Week 17 after Pernell McPhee, Leonard Floyd, and Willie Young were sent to injured reserve. McPhee is due to make $7.2 million as a base salary in 2018, but has missed a quarter of the team’s games due to injury since signing in 2015. Young represents a rare success story from the Phil Emery era, but is 32 and coming off a season-ending injury.
In an offseason where the Bears have cap flexibility and draft pick capital, it might be wise to use some of those assets to get younger, better, and more durable at the outside linebacker/edge rusher position.
Any way you slice it, it appears as if this position is about to get a major makeover.