The Chicago Bears and general manager Ryan Poles have a lot of money to spend on free agents. So much so that they could have a harder time allocating it all wisely than not. With that in mind, and free agency set to unofficially begin with the legal tampering period on March 12, this is a good time to put together a wishlist of pieces that the Bears can go after to help fix a broken offense.
Chicago ranked 32nd in passing attempts and yards last season.
Notably absent from this list are running backs. The Bears already roster one of the top available options in David Montgomery and should pay him over any other free agent, though they should look to draft an option if they do move on.
None of these are blockbuster names – there are not many of them available. But this collection of players should solve a lot of what ailed this side of the ball for the Bears last season.
5 Free Agents the Chicago Bears Must Sign to Fix the Offense
For all of the talk about the issues the Bears’ offensive line had this past season – and there were plenty – there were two true problem areas: Center and right tackle. Sam Mustipher and Larry Borom manned those spots, respectively, for at least part of the season as players from the previous regime putting them under the microscope from the beginning.
They graded out as two of the Bears’ three worst offensive linemen last season among players to appear in at least 10 games last season, per Pro Football Focus. The other was Borom’s replacement on the right side, veteran Riley Reiff.
Left guard Cody Whitehair was not too far ahead of any of them. He also turns 31 this summer and will count for over $27 million over the next two seasons.
However, his dead cap number drops from $8 million to $4 million next offseason.
Two of the biggest question marks last season – former second-round tackle-turned-guard Teven Jenkins and rookie fifth-round left tackle Braxton Jones – graded out as the Bears’ best linemen. Both still had their fair share of ups and downs throughout the season but were far from the biggest issues.
Bears Can Address Holes Along OL in Free Agency
1) Mike McGlinchey
Right tackle Mike McGlinchey of the San Francisco 49ers is not as buzzworthy as former Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown. But he fills a void without displacing Jones who would either move to the right side of the bench with Brown’s potential arrival.
“Could he miss his market? Sure,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said at the combine about McGlinchey’s free agency, per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area on February 28. “Then would we be interested? Of course we would. “But I don’t see that happening. I see him being a coveted player.”
A former ninth-overall pick in 2018, the 6-foot-8 McGlinchey recorded a 70.3 blocking grade last season which would have ranked second on the Bears behind only Jones.
At 28 years old, McGlinchey would make for a fantastic target and the Bears can outbid anyone.
Snapshot look at Top 51 #NFL Cap Space
1. #Bears, $97M
2. #Falcons, $67M
3. #Giants, $46M
4. #Texans, $42M
5. #Raiders, $39M
6. #Bengals, $35M
7. #Patriots, $32M
8. #Chiefs, $24M
30. #Saints, -$24M
31. #Jaguars, -$30M
32. #Buccaneers, -$57Mhttps://t.co/va5OPwPJi6
— Spotrac (@spotrac) March 6, 2023
2) Garrett Bradbury
Bringing Garrett Bradury to Chicago would accomplish two things – strengthening their offensive line while potentially weakening that of an NFC North rival in the Minnesota Vikings. Like McGlinchey, Bradbury is also under 30 years old and could provide a substantial upgrade to the position without breaking the bank like a more highly-touted option like Rodney Hudson might.
There are questions about Bradbury’s true value.
“A lot of the criticisms of Bradbury are rarely in the running game but rather in the passing game,” explains Matt Anderson of Vikings Wire. “It’s the weakest part of his game and mainly due to Bradbury being a smaller center by league standards…Combine his poor play in pass-blocking situations with his recent back injury, and there are valid concerns about who Bradbury will be when he returns next year.”
Bradbury – who has said he wants to return – graded out far better in pass protection than Musitpher, though he is about 20 pounds lighter which brings his health into the spotlight.
But the Bears helped Jenkins manage his back after he had surgery two years ago. Bradbury also had back-to-back 16-start seasons to start his career before missing nine games over the last two seasons including five in 2022.
Adding Some Playmakers to the Offense
3) Jakobi Meyers
It is typically good practice to avoid any players the New England Patriots are willing to let walk but, in the case of Jakobi Meyers, the stars could simply be aligning for the 26-year-old to cash in on a depleted wide receiver market this summer.
“With so many wide receivers switching teams last offseason, there aren’t a ton of big-name wideouts available this time around,” notes NFL.com’s Adam Rank. “The best thing for Meyers to do is leave New England and go get his own bag. His value has been projected at $15 million to $18 million annually. I’m not so sure the Patriots will pay him that. But some team will.”
Chicago might want to be that team – The 6-foot-2 26-year-old former quarterback is one of just seven receivers since 2020 to see at least 300 targets and a catch rate of at least 69%.
It’s a fairly lofty list.
Meyers recorded 67 receptions for 804 yards and six touchdowns on 96 targets in the NFL’s 20th-ranked offense last season. The touchdowns were a career-best but everything else was down from the season before as he dealt with a knee injury and, later, a concussion.
A clean bill of health should be all the green light the Bears need to get him in navy and burnt orange next season.
Drops were not a major issue for the Bears but, with the coaching staff wanting to see Fields take more “layups”, they need to surround him with as many sure-handed options in the passing game as possible.
4) Irv Smith Jr
Why would the Bears spend any money on a tight end when they could have to pony up for Cole Kmet who is entering the final year of his rookie deal? Because Irv Smith Jr. of the Vikings should not command top dollar which could keep him right where he is. But the Vikings’ acquisition of T.J. Hockenson from the Detroit Lions last season means Smith’s time could be up.
He has missed 30 games over the last two seasons dealing with various injuries – including the entire 2021 season with a meniscus injury – which could drive his price tag down just enough to make him worth the gamble.
Not a typical tight end at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, Smith caught 30 balls for 365 yards and five scores in 2020.
The Bears were in 21 personnel – two tight ends and one running back – 21% of the time on first down, per NFELOapp.com, the seventh-highest rate in the league. Kmet is the blocker and big-bodied target while Smith could provide a more dynamic presence in the passing game as a move tight end.
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5) Marcus Mariota
It would behoove the Bears to find a backup quarterback whose skill set is more in line with Fields in the event he has to miss any time – he missed two games this past season dealing with an accumulation of the hits he took breaking the franchise’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback.
Veteran Marcus Mariota won’t light the world on fire. But he did start 13 games last season and completed 61% of his passes for over 2200 yards. He also threw 15 touchdowns to nine interceptions.
Turnovers have been an issue with eight fumbles undercutting his four rushing touchdowns.
But he is built like Fields and, with a good backup only expected to keep you in the game should they be called upon, the Bears could use a player with 74 games worth of starting experience who also won’t throw everything they want to do off-kilter if they have to go to him.