For four more teams (Cowboys, Bills, Giants, and Jaguars), this weekend marked the end of the 2022 NFL season. And while that may stink for the fans in Dallas, Buffalo, New York, and Jacksonville, here in Chicago, we’re not-so-patiently waiting (*mouth watering*) on the addition of these players to the free agent market.
After all, the Bears have WAY more cap space than any other team in the league.
Yes, we already knew these players were on the brink of free agency. In fact, a few of them have been on our radar for a while. But that series of tweets gave us the perfect opportunity to continue thinking about potential Bears fits among the playoff-tested NFL free-agents-to-be. Let’s examine.
What About the Jags?
The Jaguars have a pair of players who might make their way onto GM Ryan Poles’ radar this offseason.
- For instance, tight end Evan Engram might be the “U” tight end who can team up with Cole Kmet (who plays more of a “Y” role) to bolster the Bears’ passing attack. This crop of receivers isn’t the most enticing bunch, so I imagine the Bears might need to be creative and seek alternative options to beef up the passing game. Engram, 28, was a Pro Bowler in 2020 and will enter free agency after setting career highs in catches (73) and yards (766).
- Teammate Jawaan Taylor is an offensive lineman who could be on the Bears radar. Taylor, 25, put together a career-best 76.4 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus. That was good enough to put him in the top 25 among tackles. But his run blocking leaves something to be desired. Then again, the pass-blocking might be valuable enough to offset those concerns. He’s also young, which is something we can’t overlook in targeting free agents to sign for multi-year deals.
A New York State of Mind
- I wonder if the Bears would have an interest in Giants receivers Darius Slayton or Sterling Shepard. Both worked with Bears WRs Coach Tyke Tolbert while in New York. Neither player single-handedly represents a solution to Chicago’s problems at the position. But let’s not overlook the importance (and value) of depth.
- Giants running back Saquon Barkley is a gem of this free agency class. That is, if he makes it. The Giants could give Barkley a Franchise or Transition Tag. But the tag might go to quarterback Daniel Jones, instead. NY GM Joe Schoen has some tough decisions to make, but already has his poker face on:
How About These Cowboys?
The Cowboys’ perennial playoff disappointment isn’t scaring me off a pair of possible free agent targets. Although, each player comes with their own set of concerns.
- For example, tight end Dalton Schultz isn’t the player he was in 2021, when he put up career bests in catches (78), receiving yards (808), and touchdowns (8). But he doesn’t have to be in order to be effective. Schultz, 26, still caught 57 passes for 577 yards and 5 scores. He also hauled in 12 passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns in two playoff games. Throw in Schultz’s run-blocking contributions and you can see his potential fit on the Bears if you squint a little.
- Running back Tony Pollard would’ve been a far more interesting potential option had it not been for him suffering a serious injury in Sunday’s playoff game:
My hope is that Pollard gets a clean bill of health after surgery and the three-month recovery period.
- Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch might be flying under-the-radar now as a possible Bears target. But maybe he shouldn’t be. Former Bears assistant coach Rod Marinelli had Vander Esch while he was in Dallas. Marinelli was a mentor to current Bears Head Coach Matt Ebeflus when he was coaching Cowboys linebackers. See where I’m getting at here? Vander Esch, 26, was a Pro Bowl rookie in 2018 and could be someone who slides into the middle of the defense and provides an upgrade.
- Health has long been an issue for Vander Esch, who has played a full slate of games just twice in his five-year career. If all things are equal, I’d rather the Bears target Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds — a two-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker in Buffalo. He’s the only Bills player from this group that really grabs my eye. So no solo section for them today.
In The End
It is probably too early to forecast who goes where. But it is never too early to try to get a handle on who the Bears could (or even should) be targeting this offseason. With so many needs and holes, it’s not as if we can dismiss any potential target off-hand. So we might as well get ahead of the ball and offer up some targets while we have a moment.