Alternative Paths for the Bears to Find Defensive Line Help

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Alternative Paths for the Bears to Find Defensive Line Help

Chicago Bears

I was on high alert last weekend, when Bears GM Ryan Poles discussed his team’s need for additional pass rush help while hinting a move could happen “sooner or later.” Based on Poles’ history as Bears GM, it felt like a transaction was somewhere on the horizon. But since then, rumblings regarding defensive linemen who could possibly be on the move have yet to involve the Bears.

On Friday, we saw the Vikings send Za’Darius Smith to the Browns in a cap-space-clearing and draft-pick-acquiring move for Minnesota. Seeing a quality pass-rush option go off the board stung, but imagining the Vikings and Bears doing business with an intra-division trade is tough. So I can’t be too upset about what we might otherwise see as a missed opportunity. And if it’s any consolation, at least the Browns didn’t pay a hefty price to snag Smith. All things equal, this should help the Bears in their quest to potentially add pass-rush help via trade.

And today, we’ve seen Carl Lawson — a potential Bears target — come to terms with the Jets on a re-done deal:

So … where does this leave the Bears?

Let’s discuss.

A Quinnen Williams trade would be a dream

Quinnen Williams is one of the NFL’s most-talented defensive linemen. An absolute game-wrecker in the middle of the Jets defense, Williams is coming off a first-team All-Pro season. And he wants to be paid like it:

Possibly disgruntled Player X seeking a contract extension always grabs our attention. And with the Bears having ample cap space and a need along the defensive line, it is easy to make that connection. And in exploring potential landing spots for Williams, Tyler Sullivan (CBS Sports) lists the Bears as a possible suitor. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy to draw up a trade. Particularly not after the Jets just mortgaged a small part of their future to take Aaron Rodgers out of the NFC North. The Jets trading their best defensive player after acquiring Rodgers is the kind of backward trade you’d expect from them … in almost any other year but this one.

Sorry if I’m bursting your bubble here.

But at least I’m letting you dream about it, right? Because one thing I’ll never be is a dream-killer. Leave that duty for someone who lives to throw wet blankets on fans’ aspirations.

Who is Bryce Huff?

OK, so we’re feeling sure that Williams is off the board. As is his Jets teammate Carl Lawson. Double bummer, yes. But perhaps this frees up someone else from what is looking like a crowded defensive line in New York.

Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger openly wondering about Bryce Huff’s availability piques my interest:

Huff, 25, has limited pro experience with just 7 starts in 37 games. For what it’s worth, Huff made the most of the 191 defensive snaps he played on last year by contributing 3.5 sacks, 2 tackles-for-loss, and 10 quarterback hits. Those aren’t bad numbers for someone who was just in on 20 percent of defensive snaps. As Spielberger points out above, Huff appears to be buried on the Jets’ depth chart. However, the Jets like him enough to have put a second-round tender on the restricted free agent. Clearly, that front office values Huff enough to not lose him for nothing. Maybe this is where the Bears come calling?

Let’s play the waiting game

Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon explores big names who could find their way to the cut block this offseason. Among the defensive linemen who pop up:

  • Eagles EDGE Derek Barnett
  • Falcons EDGE Adetokunbo Ogundeji
  • Lions DT Benito Jones
  • Seahawks EDGE Alton Robinson

Barnett, 26, is the most interesting of the options. And not just because of Bears Assistant GM Ian Cunningham’s long-standing ties to the Eagles. But, hey, we’ve seen the Eagles and Bears do business a few times recently so perhaps that could help grease the skids in possible trade talks.

My only hangup with a possible Eagles-Bears swap is that I struggle to envision Philly trading someone like Barnett during their most competitive window. Remember, the Eagles held onto Andre Dillard even though he would’ve netted a decent return because the team saw value in depth along the offensive line. Based on how Philly has built both sides of its lines, I imagine they feel similarly about the value of having depth along the defensive line.

All that to say that I hope the Bears don’t try and wait this out expecting another Josh Sitton situation. Don’t get me wrong. Be ready to pounce if it happens. But don’t expect help to just fall in your lap. Nevertheless, things happen in a surprising way we can’t see coming in mid-May. So, let’s keep our eyes open.

When is the 2024 NFL Draft?

Ideally, the Bears would’ve brought in a game-changing pass-rushing presence earlier this offseason. This isn’t to take away anything from players who are currently rostered. It’s just that I’d like a high-floor type of player who could bring some stability to the position.

The bad news is that we might have to wait until next offseason to do so.

But at least the good news is that the 2024 NFL Draft class will have some intriguing options:

This year’s class was looking pretty loaded, too. But the Bears had other, more pressing needs. With that in mind, I’m not too upset by the idea of looking ahead to the 2024 NFL Draft.

Next year’s draft having potential is kin to knowing there is a safety net below you. Yet, I can’t shake the feeling that it would be disappointing if the Bears don’t address edge or defensive end needs between now and the start of the regular season. It’s not that the Bears don’t have available bodies. Heck, they have a slew of internal candidates who should see Chicago’s desire to fill the needs at the position as additional motivation to perform so well that the front office has second thoughts.

But in a year when the Bears could play their way into the postseason if they can do some winning at the margins, those postseason aspirations could ultimately be undercut by some defensive shortcomings rooted in not striking while the iron was hot this offseason.

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Author: Luis Medina

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