By: Devin Braden
The Chicago Bears have been among the most active teams so far during the 2023 NFL offseason. It appears that Ryan Poles understood the magnitude of this offseason in reference to the future of the franchise. Poles finally fixed the disaster that he was handed by the previous regime and was rewarded with the first pick in the draft and having the most cap space in the NFL by far in 2023. In the early going of the offseason, they have already traded the number one overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft to Carolina for a king’s ransom of draft capital and a bonafide number one receiver in DJ Moore while also making nine free agent signings ranging from major upgrades on defense to serviceable depth on offense.
It was clear that out of the nine moves made by Poles and the Bears, fixing the defense whose best comparison was swiss cheese was a priority. The three major signings on the defense were ILB Tremaine Edmunds, LB TJ Edwards, and DE Demarcus Walker. These three guys will make an instant impact on a Bears defense that is looking to make a big jump next season.
Edmunds was the largest of the deals the Bears handed out this offseason, as he agreed to a 4-year, $72 million contract with $50 million guaranteed to be the next big linebacker in Bears history. It wouldn’t be fair to talk about the Edmunds deal without mentioning how the Bears elected to move on from Roquan Smith at the trade deadline after a deal with Baltimore, where Smith agreed to a 5-year, $100 million to remain with Baltimore and become the highest-paid player at his position. If Edmunds remains consistent and continues to develop, there is no question that this signing will make an impact on the Bears’ defense.
Edwards is widely considered one of the biggest steals of the offseason not only for the Bears but for the entire league. Edwards and the Bears agreed to a 3-year, $19.5 million contract with $7.9 million guaranteed. He was the leading tackler on an Eagles team that made it all the way to the Super Bowl and had one of the more solid defenses in the entire league. Edwards has seen improvement in each of his NFL seasons and looks to still not have reached his ceiling in the league. This is probably the best signing in the GM tenure of Ryan Poles in the sense that he got value at a position of need and didn’t overpay in the slightest. The narrative that the Bears got Edwards and Edmunds for the price of Roquan Smith shows how the Bears were able to round out their need for linebackers without breaking the bank on just one player.
Walker fills part of the Bears’ lack of depth on the defensive line. Walker and the Bears agreed to a 3-year, $21 million contract with $14.65 million guaranteed. He is coming off a career-best season with the Tennessee Titans where he picked up seven sacks. The Bears are hoping that Walker can build off his 2022-23 campaign and provide a spark to a Bears defense that only picked up 20 sacks last season. While he isn’t at the level of top options like Dre’mont Jones or Daron Payne, his upside alone makes him a player to watch this season. While talking about the defensive line, the Bears also signed DT Andrew Billings to a 1-year, $2.4 million deal with $2.31 million guaranteed. Billings isn’t a mindblowing signing, the former Raider should provide depth up front for the defense.
While the defense saw the majority of the flashy deals, the offense gained some depth at a few skill positions and added a new piece to a weak offensive line. Poles and the Bears added five new players to the offense via free agency so far. They agreed to deals with G Nate Davis, QB PJ Walker, RB Travis Homer, RB D’Onta Foreman, and TE Robert Tonyan. While none of these are overly big names, each of them provides depth to a Bears offense that is looking to break out under Justin Fields.
The Bears lost starting running back David Montgomery to the Detroit Lions after he agreed to a 3-year, $18 million deal. It isn’t the biggest loss for the Bears who look to turn to Khalil Herbert at RB, but Homer and Foreman certainly round out a depleted Bears RB room. Homer agreed to a 2-year, $4 million contract with $1.75 million guaranteed while Foreman agreed to a 1-year, $3 million deal with $1 million guaranteed. Homer is best known for being a pass-catching back who provides quality pass-blocking. The blocking aspect is huge, considering the Bears had a hard time protecting Justin Fields. Foreman has been coined as a slightly discounted version of David Montgomery. No disrespect to Foreman, but he can be a valuable asset to the Bears as he picked up 914 rushing yards with the Panthers after they moved on from Christian McCaffrey.
One of the more longstanding issues with the Bears has been the offensive line. While some improvements have been made by the likes of Teven Jenkins and Braxton Jones, adding Davis to the mix only solidifies a line that is looking to make a huge jump next season. Davis agreed to a 3-year, $30 million contract with $19.25 million guaranteed. Coming over from the Tennessee Titans, Davis has been a part of a line that has made Derrick Henry among the best RBs in football. He excels at run blocking and continues to improve at pass blocking. It can definitely be said that Justin Fields is excited to see his line bulk up to keep him off the ground.
The Bears and PJ Walker agreed to a 2-year, $4.15 million deal with $2.01 million guaranteed for him to be Justin Fields’ backup. Walker is an improvement from Trevor Siemian and could still provide high-level QB play in the event Fields’ is hurt or unable to play.
The Packers’ loss is the Bears’ gain, as Chicagoland native Robert Tonyan agreed to a 1-year, $2.65 million deal with $1.25 million guaranteed. Tonyan was an effective TE for the Packers before he tore his ACL in 2021 and fans can only hope he can return to his former level of production. It will be interesting to what the tandem of Cole Kmet and Tonyan can do for the Bears next season, as they look to provide yet another weapon in the arsenal for Justin Fields.
The Bears made no shortage of moves so far this offseason, and many consider them to be the winners of the NFL free agency cycle. Many of the holes the Bears had have been filled with high expectations for the future of the franchise. It is refreshing to see so much buzz and excitement around a team that has lacked it for many seasons. With most of the names off the board in free agency, all eyes are focused on the NFL draft, as fans see what Ryan Poles does to finish off an already impressive offseason.