With the NFL’s centennial season officially in the books, the remodeling of the Chicago Bears’ 2020 roster is on the horizon.
April’s draft will ultimately give us a clearer idea of what the future holds for the team, but how free agency unfolds could go a long way toward shaping Chicago’s draft plans. With that in mind, let’s check out which Bears are set to hit the free-agent market when 2019 player contracts expire at 3 p.m. CT on March 18.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Unrestricted free agents are players who have accrued at least four complete NFL seasons and can sign with any team without any draft pick compensation going to the Bears.
- Linebacker Devante Bond
- Safety Deon Bush
- Quarterback Tyler Bray
- Offensive lineman T.J. Clemmings
- Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Clinton-Dix started every game, played on 99.4 percent of the team’s total defensive snaps, and didn’t make a ton of soul-crushing mistakes as part of a strong safety tandem next to Eddie Jackson. However, he wasn’t a game-changer. He picked off a pair of passes, came up with a pair of fumble recoveries, and scored one defensive touchdown. Otherwise, his solid play was nothing more than that during his 16-game stint with the Bears. Clinton-Dix has likely played himself into a more lucrative, multi-year deal with another team that needs safety help, a move that would shift Jackson back to his original position, and could help the Bears net a compensatory pick in the 2021 draft depending on how aggressive Chicago is on the free-agent market.
- Quarterback Chase Daniel
“We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight.” -Luke Skywalker in “The Rise of Skywalker” or Chase Daniels and Tyler Bray speaking to Mitch Trubisky upon their departure from Halas Hall as unrestricted free agents?
- Safety DeAndre Houston-Carson
- Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski
Kwiatkoski has done everything asked of him since being drafted in the fourth round in 2016. He has started in the middle in place of Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan when they were out with injuries, chipped in as a key reserve, and has been a core special teams contributor for the last few years. All that adds up to the possibility of Kwiatkoski being a hot commodity on the free-agent market for a team in search of help in the middle of its defense. It isn’t inconceivable to bring Kwiatkoski back, but alternative options could prove to be more cost-efficient for a team that needs to create cap space to fill other holes.
- Offensive lineman Ted Larsen
- Linebacker Aaron Lynch
When Lynch returned to the Bears after a brief dalliance in free agency, I thought he would be the ideal player to round out the team’s collection of pass-rushers. But it turns out I was wrong. Lynch was ineffective during his stints as a situational pass-rusher, so it is tough to imagine Chicago bringing him back for a third season.
- Defensive back Sherrick McManis
McManis has shown a bit of versatility the last few years, which shouldn’t be overlooked. Because in addition to his stellar play as a special teamer, McManis played as a nickel corner in Vic Fangio’s scheme and as a safety for Chuck Pagano. But at age 32, I’m unsure if the Bears will bring McManis back after an injury-shortened season.
- Linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis
Pierre-Louis made the most of his time as a starter at the end of the season, turning in some quality performances in place of Roquan Smith and putting out some good tape in his final games. Good timing! Pierre-Louis proved he could fill in as a starting linebacker, but doesn’t figure to get a big-money deal in free agency. The Bears could bring back Pierre-Louis on a short-term deal, pivot away from Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski, whose signing elsewhere in free agency could create a path for the team to collect some compensatory draft picks in 2021.
- Long snapper Patrick Scales
- Tight end Bradley Sowell
The experiment to move Sowell from swing tackle to tight end failed miserably.
- Linebacker Danny Trevathan
Trevathan should long be remembered as a culture changer in Chicago. He arrived after winning a Super Bowl in Denver and immediately became a leader on the Bears’ defense, solidifying the middle of what had been a porous group. Injuries kept Trevathan from reaching his full potential in Chicago, making it through a full 16-game season just once while with the Bears. The team should look to bring him back, but Trevathan’s past performances could possibly price him out of Chicago.
- Defensive lineman Brett Urban
- Defensive tackle Nick Williams
Williams played admirably while starting in place of an injured Akiem Hicks. And because of that, his time behind Hicks on the depth chart will likely come to an end this offseason.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Restricted free agents are players who have accrued three complete seasons and can sign offer sheets with other NFL teams, but the Bears would have the right to match the deal. If they choose not to, they are eligible to receive draft pick compensation.
- Linebacker Isaiah Irving
- Defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris
EXCLUSIVE FREE AGENT
Exclusive free agents have completed fewer than three accrued seasons and can only negotiate with their current team.
- Offensive lineman Rashaad Coward
Coward started 10 games for the Bears in 2019, but his time as a starter proved that the former nose tackle still has work to do in order to successful conversion to the offensive line. An upgrade is needed at the starting right guard spot.
- Tight end J.P. Holtz
The Bears’ tight ends room was underwhelming in 2019, but Holtz appeared to carve out a role as a special teams contributor, and multi-faceted tight end who could block at the line and in the backfield, while also threatening to be a pass-catcher on play action passes. Chicago needed more of this last year, to say the least.