Examining Some (Non-QB) Offensive Free Agent Fits for the Bears

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Examining Some (Non-QB) Offensive Free Agent Fits for the Bears

Chicago Bears

Free agency doesn’t open up until March, but that won’t stop us from browsing through some available free agents well before that time comes.

Luckily, ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson recently highlighted a handful of players who could be viewed as fixes for a broken Bears offense. With a focus on the three positions of need – tight end, wide receiver, and offensive line – Dickerson offers some useful specifics and examples, all of which is worth a discussion. So away we go. 

The tight end options are plentiful. Austin Hooper (Falcons), Hunter Henry (Chargers), Eric Ebron (Colts), and Tyler Eifert (Bengals) make the cut as free agents who could help the Bears’ situation, according to Dickerson:

  • Signing Hooper would mean the Bears have opened a ton of space under the salary cap and do not plan on diving into the deeper end of the quarterback market. I suppose that wouldn’t be the worst option. Hooper is a two-time Pro Bowler who’s averaged 73 catches, 723 yards, and five touchdowns per year over the last two seasons. Adding that type of production at the tight end spot for the Bears would be welcomed with open arms by Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky. But at what cost? Hooper could get the largest contract ever handed to a free agent tight end, which might ultimately take the Bears out of the running.
  • Ebron has been discussed as an option (twice) already this offseason. And until he signs with a team that isn’t the Bears, it is easy to imagine more rumors connecting the 2018 Pro Bowler to Chicago will pop up. A down year in 2019 will likely limit the number of teams that could be interested in him. But the prospect pedigree of a top-10 pick and a year of high-end production (66 catches, 750 yards, 13 touchdowns) that is still fresh in everyone’s minds could keep a number of teams interested. Ebron has his flaws, but the flash and upside is certainly tempting.
  • The same can be said for Henry, a second-round pick in 2016 who has yet to play a completely healthy 16-game season. When he’s on the field, Henry flashes potential to be a difference maker. Last season, he caught 55 passes, gained 652 yards, and scored five touchdowns. That comes out to a 73-catch, 869-yard, 7-touchdown season when extrapolated over the course of a 16-game season. But here’s the catch: Henry hasn’t come close to playing a full slate of games since his rookie season, in which he played 15 games. But still … there is talent there that is easy to fall for.

There are two prominent ex-Bengals players who make Dickerson’s list. And because former Bengals OC/QBs Coach Bill Lazor is now the Bears’ offensive coordinator, it shouldn’t come as a surprise as to why they could ultimately land on Chicago’s radar.

  • Eifert is another possible tight end target who has injury issues of his own. The Notre Dame product played his first ever 16-game season in 2019, catching 43 passes, gaining 436 yards, and snagging three touchdowns. His production is a far cry from his Pro Bowl 2015 season, in which Eifert (at age 25) caught 52 passes, racked up 615 yards, and scored 13 touchdowns.
  • And then there is A.J. Green, a wide receiver who is set to hit the free agent market for the first time in his career. Green, who turns 32 in July, is a seven-time Pro Bowler who had made the all-star show-case game in each year of his career until injuries sidetracked him in 2018, then kept him off the field entirely in 2019. Chicago certainly needs help at the receiver position, as Allen Robinson can’t be the only guy making plays. But also the Bears need to sign Robinson (who is five years younger than Green) sooner, rather than later.

Arguably, the most intriguing name Dickerson shares as a possible free agent option is Joe Thuney, a Patriots offensive lineman who is one of the top two interior blockers projected to hit the market.

  • Thuney was a third-round pick by the Pats in 2016, was part of two Super Bowl winners, has started all 16 games in each of his four seasons, and has played on 99 percent of the team’s offensive snaps since landing in New England. That type of ability and durability will likely be desired by the Bears (as well as other possible suitors). Then again, if the Patriots can snag this type of talent in the middle rounds of the drafts, why wouldn’t Chicago try and do the same in a move that could save the team some precious salary cap space.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.