Former Chicago Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman took to Twitter to announce his retirement on Wednesday.
Freeman played the final two years of his career in Chicago, with his best season coming in 2016 when he led the team in tackles despite playing just 12 games and posted an elite grade by Pro Football Focus’ standards. You can check out Freeman’s statement via Twitter here:
Thank you, and I love you all!! pic.twitter.com/qdQYEN2mCI
— Jerrell Freeman (@JerrellFreeman) May 2, 2018
- The Bears drafted Freeman’s replacement in the first round in last week’s NFL Draft when the team made Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith with the eighth pick. Choosing Smith to be a leader in the middle of the defense made sense, and not just because he was an All-American Butkus Award-winning linebacker. Smith is a younger and healthier player at this stage of his career than Freeman, who’s been kept off the field because of injuries and suspensions. There was a time where the Bears missed Freeman in the lineup, but the team has accumulated depth at the position with fourth-round pick Joel Iyiegbuniwe joining Nick Kwiatkoski, John Timu, and Jonathan Anderson behind Smith and Danny Trevathan.
- There hasn’t been much push back regarding the Bears using their first-round choice on Smith. However, one NFL executive shared concerns when it comes to Smith’s value because of the position Smith played. According to ESPN’s Mike Sando, one executive offered up this idea: “It is the understanding of value, like when Wade Phillips tells the Rams to value corners and edge rushers, so they trade the inside linebacker (Alec Ogletree). In the 3-4, you ideally pay one of your 30 defensive ends, your two pass-rushers, a corner and a safety.”
- The one positive thing I take from the John Fox era is a belief in the idea that there is more than one way win in football. With that in mind, there is more than one way to build a productive 3-4 defense. That Vic Fangio and Wade Phillips have different valuations of players and are still great defensive coordinators speaks to that. The Bears are paying one of their defensive ends (Akiem Hicks) and two of their corners (Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara). But instead of paying safeties, the Bears have drafted them. And instead of paying for edge-rushing outside linebackers, the Bears are banking on the draft pick of Leonard Floyd living up to his top-10 selection as part of a rotation of pass rushers. There aren’t too many Bears players making big paper, but that could change if they continue on the path of being a top-10 defense.
- Long-time NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. seems to be digging Smith as the newest Bears linebacker and someone he expects to provide an immediate impact as a rookie. “Smith could be a contender to lead the NFL in tackles as a rookie,” Kiper wrote, via Larry Mayer of the Bears’ official website. “Just look at the NFL’s leading tacklers from 2017. They’re all three-down middle linebackers who never have to leave the field. That’s Smtih, who will slot in next to Danny Trevathan to form a speedy and physical duo.” Yes, please!
- This slipped under our radar on draft day, but Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times has an in-depth look at how the Bears came around to making Smith their No. 1 pick. The GM often gets the most love when picks are made (especially the popular ones), but scouts like Sam Summerville and Francis Saint-Paul, as well as College Scouting Director Mark Sadowski deserve some praise for their work behind the scenes. Scouting isn’t easy, so you know it takes a team effort to to find a player the Bears’ top decision makers could come to an agreement on who has a high floor and a high ceiling.
- Even though the heavy lifting is behind us, the Bears could still stand to tweak the roster here and there because there is nothing wrong with a little fine tuning. Andrew Link of The Loop Sports provides some ideas on where GM Ryan Pace can turn in free agency to round out the roster. Outside linebacker and safety are positions highlighted by Link where the Bears could snatch up some free agent talent. I’m particularly intrigued by the idea of former 49ers safety Eric Reid, who has a history with Vic Fangio and is someone we have long felt the Bears should have an eye on. Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro is also a possibility worth noting. He crossed paths with Pace while both were in New Orleans.
- The Bears’ offseason has been productive to the point where we’re thinking the team should surpass their projected win total by the wagering oddsmakers. But sometimes it’s the smaller moves that fly under the radar that make a big difference. So don’t say I didn’t warn you, but we all know what happened the last time the Eagles signed a free agent Bears receiver:
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) May 2, 2018