The NFL Draft traditionally serves as the last event in which teams can add impact talent in a given offseason.
However, it isn’t the last opportunity to work around the fringes. In fact, the end of the draft marks an important part of the league’s football calendar. That’s because, as of today, free agents who sign with teams no longer count against the compensatory draft pick formula. In other words, some high-profile names we would’ve otherwise expected to have sign by now will see renewed interest from teams positioning themselves to net a compensatory pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Unsurprisingly, there’s already movement on this front:
The #Saints are making a key post-draft addition, as they’re expected to sign All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu, sources say. A long-awaited signing that should be finalized in the coming days, the Honey Badger lands in a perfect spot.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 2, 2022
Washington is signing former Steelers’ free-agent guard Trai Turner to a one-year, $3 million deal, per source. Turner previously played for Ron Rivera in Carolina.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 2, 2022
While the Bears weren’t overly active in free agency’s early edition, the post-draft free agency pool provides a second chance. This is an area where they should be selectively aggressive in the pursuit of players. Or is it aggressively selective? In either case, the Bears have $13,883,251 worth cap space and needs that could be solved with short-term signings.
For instance, left tackle remains a major question-mark. Larry Borom is penciled in as the starter right now. But a second-year player who had limited reps and is still projected by many to be a guard doesn’t feel like the best option. And while the team could like draft picks Ja’Tyre Carter and Braxton Jones, installing a rookie Day 3 pick to protect Justin Fields’ blindside feels like a risky endeavor. For what it’s worth, the Bears have external options worth exploring.
Perhaps the team could target Duane Brown or Eric Fisher as veteran help at left tackle. Fisher, whose long made sense as a possible Bears OL option, has a history with Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus (from his time with the Colts) and GM Ryan Poles (from being in Kansas City). Brown doesn’t have a prior history with either of Chicago’s top shot-callers, but is a player with extensive experience, a Pro Bowl pedigree, and could slide into the role of veteran bridge tackle that Jason Peters played so well in 2021.
After drafting just one wide receiver over the weekend, the Bears followed up by immediately signing four UDFA pass-catchers. It’s a start, but it isn’t enough to make us feel settled about the situation. With that in mind, maybe T.Y. Hilton – a long-time Colts mainstay who hit free agency – makes sense as a plausible target worth adding to the mix. Will Fuller V is also a sensible option if the Bears seek a deep threat who could use Chicago as a soft landing to rebuild his profile before hitting free agency again. Emmanuel Sanders and Jarvis Landry are players the Bears should have an interest in, but I struggle to see them returning the feelings because those veterans seem more likely to have more of an interest in joining a contender.
On the other side of the ball, Eberflus’ defense could still use a traditional 3-technique defensive tackle. And with any compensatory draft pick formula consideration being out the window, maybe we’ll see the Bears make a(nother) run at Larry Ogunjobi. That’s something Chicago’s general manager hasn’t ruled out:
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) March 28, 2022
In the end, we should brace ourselves for a spurt of moves this week. After that, a trickle of signings will come down the pipeline. Ideally, the Bears will make a few of them. Hopefully, they’ll be most helpful in plugging holes they couldn’t via the draft or earlier free agency efforts.