Even after a productive offseason, featuring a highly acclaimed draft class and a well-regarded run in free agency, the Chicago Bears’ lack of certified impact pass-rushers stands out. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see the Bears connected with two edge defenders whose names have been dangled on the trade market. Sean Wagner-McGough of CBS Sports offers up a list of seven trade possibilities he believes make sense – and two of them involve the Bears.
At the top of the list, Wagner-McGough explores the possibility of the Denver Broncos dealing pass rusher Shane Ray to the Bears. Ray was a first-round pick (23rd overall) in 2015 and came into the NFL with some buzz. He sandwiched a four-sack rookie season in 2015 and a disappointing 2017 that featured just one sack in eight games with a stellar 2016 season. Things were looking up for Ray in his second year as a pro as he picked up with eight sacks, a forced fumble and two recoveries in 2016. Ray earned a respectable 76.7 grade from Pro Football Focus.
Ray could possibly represent a low-risk, high-reward option, especially since the Broncos seem set with veteran Von Miller and 2018 first-round pick Bradley Chubb setting the edge in Denver. Wagner-McGough also mentions a deal with the Detroit Lions as something that would be sensible. If Ray was to start tapping into his potential with Detroit, that would be a situation Bears fans wouldn’t be fond of watching.
Should Ray go elsewhere or become unavailable, perhaps Dante Fowler of the Jacksonville Jaguars could be of interest. Wagner-McGough also sees the Bears and Lions as possible landing spots for another talented pass-rusher from the NFL Draft class of 2015. Fowler was the third overall pick that season, but missed his rookie season because of a torn ACL suffered during the first day of the team’s rookie minicamp.
Unlike Ray, Fowler appears to be a player with his arrow pointing up. The 2017 season was a breakout campaign of sorts for Fowler, who came away with eight sacks, two forced fumbles, three recoveries, and a touchdown in his age 23 season. He also picked up a pair of sacks of Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game, which is most impressive considering Fowler’s role as a rotation pass rusher and the importance of that contest.
One notable thing about Ray and Fowler is that neither of their teams picked up the fifth-year option on their respective contracts. That is something that could drive down the price of doing business should GM Ryan Pace ultimately travel down that road and explore either possibility.
The Bears have some intriguing players among their group of outside linebacker/edge-rusher types, but injury concerns and inexperience are not to be downplayed or ignored. After parting ways with Pernell McPhee and Willie Young, Chicago has gone with something of a youth movement by signing Aaron Lynch and drafting Kylie Fitts.
To be fair, those two players strengthen the depth of the group and both have upside that could be unlocked under Vic Fangio. But the Bears could stand to add depth at what is a glaring position of need. And while neither Ray nor Fowler presents an immediate upgrade, both are still young enough to still reach their full potential in the right situation.