Jumping on the D-line Market, More Arlington Renderings, NFL Q&A, and Other Bears Bullets

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Jumping on the D-line Market, More Arlington Renderings, NFL Q&A, and Other Bears Bullets

Chicago Bears

I’ll admit my head has been in the clouds for a good chunk of the last 2+ months. But today felt like the first time that the calendar was sneaking up on me. We’ll celebrate Paczki Day/Fat Tuesday next week. So is Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Quarterfinal Friday of Arch Madness (yes, Arch Madness) is two weeks from today. There are just 24 days until the NFL’s legal tampering period opens its doors. And just 26 days until the curtain goes up on the NFL’s new league year. The NFL Draft is in 69 days, which is nice to know since the Bears still own the first pick.

For the first time in a while, I’m feeling like things to look forward to are coming in waves. Nature is healing?

  • There were too many times during the Ryan Pace era that left me feeling like we were watching two different games. And that feeling surfaced during the offseason when we’d look ahead to free agency and the draft. We’d see the Bears needs as being one thing, only to see Pace’s front office target positions not necessarily high on the need/priority list. It was weird. And unsettling. For instance, Pace’s lack of aggressiveness (and success) in fixing holes along the offensive line and at receiver were a constant. And yet, he was often pouring an increasing amount of resources into an already stout defense. It had me perplexed and kept me up at night. My hope is that Ryan Poles flips that narrative and prioritizes team needs and high-value positions this offseason. Moreover, I think that is about to take place.
  • The Bears’ free agency priorities are becoming clear. Simply put, it begins in the trenches. We now have reports that Chicago will be active in the free agent market with eyes on fixing the offensive *AND* defensive lines. Although, let it be known there is no need to position yourself in a debate on which is a bigger need because it’s all a problem. An offensive line that must be better in pass protection next year needs some fresh faces in the starting lineup. And a defense that other teams ran circles around needs to fortify the front lines. There will be players who interest the Bears who could ultimately get tagged, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. But for now, it is important that the Bears are identifying the problem and solutions on how to fix it. What a time to be alive.
  • We’ll want to keep tabs on that defensive line market because I figure it’ll be fluid between now and when teams and player reps can talk shop on March 13. In an interview with ESPN’s John Keim (you can watch on YouTube), Washington head coach Ron Rivera says the Commanders have begun contract talks with defensive tackle Daron Payne. That figures to be an important hurdle we’ll need to cross before we begin dreaming of Payne in a Bears uni.
  • Washington didn’t extend Payne last offseason, drafted his presumptive replacement, let him play out the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, and watched him go OFF in 2022. Payne set career highs in sacks (11.5) and tackles-for-loss (18) and it has him set up nicely to reset the market at his position. The Commanders could give Payne the Franchise Tag, but it would cost them in the neighborhood of $18 million. And with Jonathan Allen making big money and Chase Young a year away from probably getting a bag himself, something’s gotta give.
  • A scenario I’m quietly rooting for is one where the Commanders find themselves using cap space on a veteran quarterback, leaving them no choice but to let Payne walk. Preferably, Payne’s walk turns into a trip to Chicago where he can plop right into the middle of a defensive line that needs him.
  • Brad Biggs (Tribune) offers up an alternative to Payne — you know, in the event Washington tags him this offseason. Denver’s Dre’Mont Jones is an intriguing secondary-tier option that looks to have notable upside. Jones, 26, set career highs in starts (13) and defensive snaps played (716) with the Broncos in 2022. And he made the most of that playing time by securing 6.5 sacks, 47 total tackles, 9 tackles-for-loss, 10 quarterback hits, and a forced fumble. There is still room to grow in his game, but Jones appears to have set a solid floor for future expectations. Pro Football Focus ranks him 22nd on their list of top 100 free agents this offseason. Consider me interested.
  • Of course, it won’t be easy. Back in November, reports out of Denver pegged Jones as a player the Broncos will prioritize keeping. Based on his age, upside, potential, and résumé, I can’t say I blame GM George Paton for wanting to keep Jones around. Then again, things might’ve changed since November. After all, the team has since hired Sean Payton to be its head coach. And with just $9.387 million in space under the cap, the Broncos will have to do a bunch of maneuvering to make a Jones reunion happen.
  • Ooh, this looks neat:
  • LOL: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the Bears will end up where they started, at a refurbished Soldier Field. Mind you, the Bears technically began in Decatur. Does the mayor know that? A return to Decatur would be wild. Implausible. But wild, nonetheless. (Sun-Times)
  • Sometimes, you just gotta laugh. Cam Ellis (670 The Score) lines up a how-to guide for us to best handle the swirl of Justin Fields trade rumors. Again, laughter is good for the soul. And I need it with every Fields trade rumor that reaches my eyeballs.
  • How about some really good conversation from an interesting panel of Bears beat reporters to help you get through Friday:
  • AHEM!
  • Michael Jordan is celebrating his 60th birthday in grand fashion:
  • Ooh! Brett’s Spring Training Miscellany posts are back:
  • The Blackhawks’ tank job keeps chugging along:
  • And I guess we’re on Wemby Watch, too:

Author: Luis Medina

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