The Chicago Bears have a ton of gaps to fill on their roster as G.M. Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox look to turn around a franchise that set all sorts off records for futility in a lost 2014 season, and with free agency beginning on Tuesday, the tandem has their first shot to enact massive changes to the lineup the team will field in the 2015 campaign.
With that in mind, we have a shopping list that Pace and Fox could potentially be drawing from as they prepare to spend some cash to turn the team from a pretender into a contender.
With Charles Tillman likely out of the picture and both Kyle Fuller and Tim Jennings struggling at the position last season, the Bears could potentially be in the market for another cornerback to help bolster their pass defense.
With the other needs that the team has, this one is likely going to take a bit of a backseat, but seeing the Bears add a second or third-tier free agent like Bradley Fletcher or Davon House isn’t out of the question.
The Bears are definitely looking to add some help on the pass rush as they switch to a 3-4 defense, and even though they’ve reportedly already locked up the incredibly versatile Pernell McPhee to a five-year contract, they could still be in the market for another player at the end position. Cheaper players like Adrian Clayborn could be in the mix for Chicago if they choose to address this position again via free agency rather than the draft.
This is the position that is likely the one of most dire need for the Bears. Their linebacker corps is a trainwreck at the moment, with no guaranteed starters anywhere in sight as Vic Fangio tries to construct his new defense.
One player that the Bears are reportedly interested in his 26-year old Mason Foster. In his four NFL seasons, all played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Foster has six sacks, 343 tackles, and five interceptions. He is a versatile player with some injury history, but with his youth and his connection to Pace (the New Orleans Saints aggressively scouted him before the 2011 NFL Draft), the Bears could very well be in line for his services.
Another player to keep an eye on is Curtis Lofton, who was just cut by the Saints. The veteran would bring a calming presence to the turbulent Bears’ locker room, and his on-field intelligence and skill would be welcome as the team looks for a field general to help lead them with DJ Williams and Lance Briggs likely playing elsewhere next season.
The Bears have some in-house candidates to play nose tackle in their new 3-4 defense, with Jeremiah Ratliff the most likely candidate to get a crack at the job and Ego Ferguson serving as a young project for Fangio to work with as the season progresses. If the Bears decide to venture into free agency, there are reports that they are interested in Denver Broncos nose tackle Terrance Knighton, but they would have to fend off advances from teams like the Oakland Raiders and Indianapolis Colts to land his services.
The Bears are likely going to give some looks to players like Willie Young, Jared Allen, and Jon Bostic at outside linebacker in the 3-4 defensive scheme they will be running (there is also a strong chance that McPhee will see time at the position too), but they could look to free agency to bolster the position. Houston Texans linebacker Brooks Reed could be an attractive option for the Bears, but the draft could be a better place for the team to address the need.
With players like Antrel Rolle, Rahim Moore, and others on the market, the Bears could be making a huge mistake if they choose to ignore their safety needs in free agency. Overpaying for safeties is a fact of life in the NFL nowadays, but the position is critical for any defense, and with questions in the linebacker and corner corps, the Bears need all the help they can get over the top.
After trading away Brandon Marshall, the Bears are likely going to be in the market for a fast wide receiver to pair with Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett (the team is also reportedly looking at tight ends to run two TE sets with Bennett), but the pickings aren’t exactly plentiful. One player to keep an eye on is Torrey Smith, who has reportedly told the Baltimore Ravens that he will not re-sign with them. His speed would be a perfect complement to Jeffery and would give Jay Cutler a tremendous weapon to whom to throw.