What Happened to the Bears Drafting a Defensive End? And Can Free Agency Help?

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What Happened to the Bears Drafting a Defensive End? And Can Free Agency Help?

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears made 10 picks in last weekend’s NFL Draft. And the general vibe is that the team did well. GM Ryan Poles seems to be getting plenty of praise for his continued efforts in turning over a roster and infusing it with young talent. But one thing sticks out from this weekend. And it leaves me asking a question.

What happened to the Bears drafting a defensive end?

“You want to fix everything immediately, but it’s got to work the right way. The right players got to be there to fit our scheme. So, we can’t fix everything at a high level in one swoop,” Poles said in a post-draft press conference. “Camp’s a long way away. We’ll stay on our toes. And if something presents itself, we’ll be able to do that.”

Well, at least the guy running the show knows that his work isn’t done. That is refreshing. It doesn’t erase the Bears’ needs at the position. But knowledge is power. And acknowledging that your roster still has “high level” needs at an important position on the defense is a fine first step. Even still …the Bears left the draft’s weekend with the same glaring weakness that it entered with — a sizable need at defensive end. And that irks me.

This was a class loaded with defensive line talent. Particularly at defensive end. So much so that it was a common thread in our pre-draft coverage. There were so many intriguing options. That Chicago didn’t come away with any of the top defensive end prospects bugs me. It bothers me more when I think about how Derick Hall, Isaiah Foskey, BJ Ojulari, and Keion White were off the board in Round 2 before the Bears could even get on the clock. The early run on defensive ends in Round 2 probably threw a loop in any potential Poles plan to take a defensive end.

Of course, this could’ve been avoided if the Bears had ownership of their own second-round pick. Instead, the Pittsburgh Steelers had it thanks to the Chase Claypool trade. Maybe Claypool will play so well that we don’t think about it in a negative light. But that might not look like a shrewd move if it turns out the Bears missed out on a long-term piece of the puzzle. However, I digress. Because bemoaning the Claypool trade (which was applauded at the time because it was a public show of the franchise’s faith in Justin Fields) does nothing to get us closer to understanding how Chicago can address its defensive end needs.

So … what’s next?

The good news is that the Bears have accumulated solid rotational depth at the position.

Trevis Gipson, DeMarcus Walker, and Rasheem Green are serviceable professionals. Dominique Robinson is a work in progress, but one with loud tools. The hope is that this group — as currently constructed — would be better than the sum of its parts. But the Bears should want more from this position group. Thankfully, there are some free agent options worth kicking the tires on:

  • Yannick Ngakoue, 28, seems to be a perfect fit for this bunch. Putting a pass-rush specialist opposite DeMarcus Walker’s more balanced game would lift the Bears’ defensive line to another level. Ngakoue has never had fewer than 8 sacks in a season. That type of consistency and productivity is something the Bears could use.
  • Leonard Floyd, 30, might be a little old in terms of Chicago’s free agency preferences. But a one-year “prove it” contract that would allow Floyd to showcase his skills and re-enter the market next year is one of those deals that could (in theory) work for both sides. We discussed a Floyd reunion at length last month. I’d encourage you to revisit that conversation if you’re curious.
  • Jadeveon Clowney, 30, is a big name who *SHOULD* be looking for a pillow contract that provides a soft landing after a disappointing 2022. And while that down year is fresh in our memory, Clowney is just a year removed from a season in which he put up 9 sacks, 11 tackles-for-loss, and 19 quarterback hits. There could still be some juice in that engine.
  • Frank Clark, 29, has a history with this Bears front office and would fill a need. But I’m not comfortable with the off-the-field baggage. Maybe the Bears could get to a place where they *ARE* comfortable. However, I’m not sure they could (would … or should) after passing on drafting Jalen Carter and opting to trade with the Eagles so they could make him their pick.

In the end, I feel as if the Bears are planning to address this need via next year’s draft. But we’re months away from even thinking about college football prospects. So we don’t want to go down that road. However, there are options worth exploring now. And I hope they do so. Otherwise, we’re going to be banging the drum and voicing our concerns about what has been a long-standing need throughout the 2023 season.

Author: Luis Medina

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