There's Some Serious Smoke Surrounding the Bears and Free Agent LB Bobby Okereke

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There’s Some Serious Smoke Surrounding the Bears and Free Agent LB Bobby Okereke

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears are so the it team right now.

The buzz building around the Bears is undeniable. But that was to be expected when a team owns the first pick, has a market to sell in a feeding frenzy, and has nearly $100 million in space *UNDER* the salary cap. And while the NFL Draft begins with the Bears, free agency gets underway next week. You can figure the Bears to be connected to any number of free agents. Offense. Defense. Special teams. You name it. Chicago’s football team is about to be BUSY. So, let’s get ahead of it while we can.

One position of need for the Bears is linebacker. And that feels so odd to type out when you consider that this franchise churns out stud linebackers at a wildly obscene rate. Every generation of Bears fans can boast star linebackers they grew up rooting for over the years. But with the turnover the Bears are going through, that position group is changing. Free agency figures to change it more. And one name in particular keeps popping up.

Get familiar with Bobby Okereke, a free agent who is getting interest from (among others) the Bears:

Jordan Schultz hears Okereke’s deal could be a sizable one. The 26-year-old free agent could fetch a contract in the $12-14 million per year range. Successfully doing so would net him a top-10 contract among players at the position. On the low end, a $12M AAV would put him at the 10th highest per-year average ahead of Buffalo’s Matt Milano. Meanwhile, a $14M per-year average salary would put him ahead of Carolina’s Shaq Thompson. So while it wouldn’t put him at the top of the market that Roquan Smith reset with the Ravens, it would get Okereke in that next tier.

It is also worth noting that Schultz isn’t the only one connecting the dots with the Bears and Okereke. The Tribune’s Brad Biggs name-drops Okereke in discussing free agent fits in his latest column, which I’d consider a must-read for you offseason-obsessed fans. Okereke’s name comes up in conversation via The Athletic’s Adam Jahns and Kevin Fishbain as an “easy match” that was getting chatter at the Combine. James Boyd, a teammate of Jahns and Fishbain at The Athletic, also recently called the Bears a “logical new team” for Okereke. That’s a whole lotta smoke for one team and player. Now that I’m thinking about it more, the fit just makes sense.

Okereke and the Bears are an Ideal Match in Free Agency

Firstly, Okereke has experience in the Matt Eberflus-Alan Williams defensive scheme. And at multiple positions, too. Okereke spent time at the weakside linebacker spot and inside. Meaning that he should be comfortable in the Shaquille “Darius” Leonard role as the “WILL” linebacker *OR* the “MIKE” linebacker slot. That versatility and recent production should make Okereke a hot commodity. Okereke is coming off a season in which he set career bests in total tackles (151), solo tackles (99), and tackles-for-loss (6). So, yeah, it should come as no surprise that there are multiple teams eyeing him (or that he could command a salary north of $12 million per year).

Also: I don’t want to get too hung up on price. Allow me to explain before you rip my head off while pointing out the Bears weren’t willing to cave to Roquan’s contractual asks. Keep in mind, it’s not that the Bears didn’t want to pay Roquan. It’s just that they weren’t comfortable playing at the absolute top and setting a new market. Everyone has their price, but that also means everyone has a price point. All things considered, it’s fair to consider both sides. And I can understand the challenges of finding the middle ground.

With that being said, it is fair to wonder if the Bears are better off splitting $20 million per year into multiple places. For instance, is this defense better off with Smith making $20 million at a defensive position he was only beginning to learn or Okereke at $14 million at a position he knows (and performs well in) with $6 million to spend elsewhere? I wish I had an answer to that, but I don’t. It’s not like we’ve seen this defense humming along as a fully armed and operational battle station. Nevertheless, we’ll keep an eye on Okereke’s market. The fit just makes so much sense.

Author: Luis Medina

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