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4 Must-Sign Free Agent Targets to Fix the Chicago Bears’ Defense

The Chicago Bears should make a strong push to sign these four players in free agency to fix their defense.
Bears Fix Defense

The Chicago Bears certainly have to continue adding to what was a historically bad (passing) offense. But their defense was equally as broken. Especially in the run game ranking 31st in rushing yards allowed and 32nd in rushing touchdowns allowed.

4 Targets the Chicago Bears Must Sign to Fix Their Defense

Their passing defense ranked 17th in yards and was top-10 in scoring. But that is because it was far easier for opposing offenses to move the ball on the ground.

They still allowed the most passing yards per attempt in the NFL last season.

But, after hefty draft capital and finances have been invested in that group, the Bears might be wise to address their other problem areas first. They did rank dead last in sacks last season getting to the quarterback just 20 times all season. It’s just the 17th time a team has recorded 20 or fewer sacks in an entire season since divisions were realigned in 2002, per Stathead.

It Has to Start Upfront for Bears on Defense

1) Marcus Davenport

There was a decent chance the Bears draft a pass rusher. Perhaps they go Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson after trading down from the top spot and securing their new No. 1 wide receiver in D.J. Moore. They do still have Travis Gipson and Domonique Robinson trying to earn their keep. Neither was particularly impressive last season. Adding former New Orleans Saints top pick Marcus Davenport would hedge their bets.

In 15 games last season, the 26-year-old Davenport recorded just one half-sack last season for the second-ranked passing defense. But he is just one year removed from notching nine sacks for New Orleans. And his career began with 10.5 sacks over his first two seasons down in the bayou after being selected 14th overall in 2018.

“Davenport has shown flashes of Pro Bowl potential,” writes Gary Davenport from Bleacher Report. “However, he has yet to consistently be a difference-maker.”

He’s also missing at least two games with injuries every season since he entered the league.

Spotrac projects Davenport’s value to be around $23 million per season.

Even flush with cap space, the Bears should look elsewhere at that price. Samson Ebukam of the San Francisco 49ers could be an option. But if they can capitalize on Davneport’s down year, Chicago should absolutely pounce on a player who has shown the potential he has.

2) Sheldon Rankins

You can’t rush the passer if teams aren’t forced to throw the ball. Scoring points is one way to encourage them to do that. But a more practical way is by shutting down their rushing attack. A veteran such as former New York Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins could help solve both issues.

Originally a first-round pick by the Saints in 2016, Rankins has recorded three sacks in each of the last two years. More importantly, he graded out as the 24th-best defensive lineman last season, per Pro Football Focus.

He isn’t available because of production, either.

If that does not seem terribly high, consider that no Bears player even cracked PFF’s top 100 defensive lineman rankings.

Their first entrant was Armon Watts at 146.

“Although he won’t turn 29 until April, Rankins’ upside might be viewed as limited, and the Jets rotate their linemen so much that they may not consider they’ll be getting value for money if replacing him will prove so costly,” explains Yahoo! Sports. “He may also prefer a chance to remain as a starter rather than finding himself in a situation where someone younger is gradually phased in to relegate him to a rotational backup role.”

If you subscribe that the Bears can’t exactly fix every issue this offseason, the 6-foot-2 Rankins still makes for a solid addition to a group that needs help at almost every level.

Bears Were Picked Apart in the Passing Game

3) Anthony Walker

The Bears were routinely picked apart in the middle of the field last season. Linebacker play was a big reason why. What they may have touted in speed, they lacked in coverage ability leaving gaping holes for opposing quarterbacks to abuse leading to plenty of YAC opportunities, though, thanks to their porous run defense, they ranked just 13th in YAC allowed.

Chicago finished 0.1 yards better per play than the Detroit Lions from being the worst defense in that category.

Enter Anthony Walker who spent the past two seasons with the Cleveland Browns but started his career with the Indianapolis Colts where he learned under Bears head coach Matt Eberflus for three of his four seasons.

Last year, Walker only appeared in five games before suffering a torn quad that ended his season and injuries spoiled his Browns tenure.

But he recorded at least 92 total tackles in each of the previous five seasons.

Chicago ranked in the bottom third of the league in missed tackles last season. Meanwhile, Walker missed just 6.8% of his tackles from 2019 through 2021. That is the seventh-best mark in that span. It’s a list that includes Colts stud Shaquille Leonard, former Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner, and former Bear Roquan Smith.

4) Jamel Dean

The Bears got by with a young secondary last season spearheaded by veterans Eddie Jackson and Jaylon Johnson bringing along rookie second-rounders Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon, the latter of whom they envision as their slot cornerback leaving a spot opposite Johnson open.

Kindle Vildor and rookie Jaylon Jones split duties opposite Johnson last year. While they did alright, there is plenty of room for improvement for the Bears.

With the money to spend, they could allocate some of that to Jamel Dean.

A former third-round pick by the Buccaneers, Dean stands 6-foot-1 and is just 26 years old. Just entering the early stages of a prime, he should fully realize his potential by the time the Bears are ready to contend. Despite not having great takeaway numbers – just two interceptions last season, seven total in his four-year career.

But Dean allowed just 55.4% of the passes sent his way to be completed which would have led the Bears. And, over the last two seasons, is seventh in completion percentage allowed among defenders to see at least 130 targets in that span.

The pass rush is still the top issue to be addressed. But Dean would make a fine cherry on top of a revamped defense.


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