The Chicago Bears’ coaching staff has been completely overhauled recently, and it seems that the offense has been the main focus, as it should be. Mitchell Trubisky is now the franchise quarterback that the Bears have been drastically searching for over the last few decades, and Jordan Howard has been setting the tone in the running game. The defense kept a lot of the games close during the 2017 season and one can only hope that the defense will play even better in 2018.
Everyone is anxious to see if Ryan Pace opens up the pocketbook this year during free agency in order to bring some much-needed weapons to the team in order for this offense to really take leaps and bounds this upcoming season under the new coaching staff. However, just because the offense needs a lot of attention does not mean that the defense couldn’t use some quality additions as well. Let’s take a look at a few defensive players that are set to be free agents this year that the Bears should consider in no specific order.
Trumaine Johnson – 6’2” 213 lbs. 28 years old – Johnson had a very productive year with the Los Angeles Rams. He had 65 tackles, two interceptions (one of which went for a touchdown), one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and 14 pass deflections. Johnson will be one of the most expensive free agents this offseason. His stats during his career have been consistent and, even though he is getting up there in age, a few months older than Malcolm Butler, he is a tall and lengthy defender who would make a solid number one corner for the Vic Fangio led Bears defense.
Kyle Fuller – 5’11” 190 lbs. 26 years old – Fuller had the best season of his career hands down. Fuller set a high bar for his career high 22 pass deflections and had two interceptions. In his rookie year, he had four interceptions but only 10 pass deflections. I do see the Bears throwing a decent amount of money at him but some other cornerback-needy teams might be willing to throw more money than Pace would be comfortable with matching or exceeding for his services. My only concern would be that he outperformed his worth since he knew it was his contract year and wanted to make a name for himself in order to push teams to pay top dollar.
Malcolm Butler – 5’11” 190 lbs. 28 years old – Everyone remembers Butler’s Super Bowl winning interception that put his name on the map. Butler has been a very solid player over the last three seasons. He has averaged about 52 tackles over that span and had two interceptions in 2015 and 2017, with his career high being four in 2016. During those three seasons, he had 15, 17, and 12 pass deflections, respectively. This is just about the prime of his career and he would likely be worth the money if the Bears are unable to sign Johnson and or Fuller. In this league, you have to pay the price for shutdown corners, and Butler is used to the cold weather. I am assuming Trumaine Johnson, who is from California, plays in Los Angeles, and even when the Rams were in St. Louis they played in a dome, is not as used to playing outside in the snow.
Ross Cockrell– 6’0” 191 lbs. 26 years old – Cockrell had 50 combined tackles, three interceptions, and 11 pass deflections this season for the Giants. He has had double digit pass deflection numbers for the last three seasons in a row now. This is the second time out of his four career seasons in which he had multiple interceptions, and this year was his career high with the three interceptions.
Bashaud Breeland– 5’11” 195 lbs. 25 years old – In 2017, Breeland had 50 tackles, a career high 19 pass deflections, and returned his only interception for a 96-yard touchdown. In 2016, he had 73 tackles, 11 pass deflections, and a career high three interceptions. In 2015, he had his career high of 81 tackles with two interceptions. His rookie year he consisted of two interceptions and 66 tackles. His rookie year he had 14 pass deflections, and in year two he had 16. Breeland would be the first choice whether the Bears resign Kyle Fuller or not. He has been a very consistent player and that’s what you want in a cornerback.
Linebackers/ Defensive Line:
Preston Brown– 6’1” 251 lbs. 25 years old – In 2017, Brown was tied for the most total tackles and set his career high in snaps played. Jerrell Freeman is getting up there in age and was suspended 10 games last season for performance enhancing drugs. If the Bears choose to move on from Freeman this offseason and want to use their first-round pick on a different position and not draft Roquan Smith, then Brown would be the best option to line up next to Danny Trevathan and would still have Nick Kwiatkoski as depth and to be used in sub packages.
Sheldon Richardson– 6’3” 1990 lbs. 27 years old – Although Richardson did not put up the type of numbers he is capable of, he is still young enough to be a very productive and disruptive player on the field. He is more suited for the 3-4 defense than the 4-3 defense they play in Seattle. He also recorded his first career interception, which isn’t as important as sacks but it is still a milestone. Imagine him lined up next to Akiem Hicks. Richardson would help make the case of the Chicago Bears’ front seven being one of the best, if not the best, in the NFL.
Ezekiel Ansah– 6’5” 275 lbs. 28 years old – All Bears fans and staff know darn well who Ezekiel Ansah is and how dominant of a pass rusher he can be, when healthy. Health is the main concern for any team looking to give Ansah a contract. His best year statistically was in 2015, when he had 14.5 sacks. 2017 was his second best total sack year with twelve. The interesting part about that stat is that six out of his twelve sacks came in the last two games of the year in which he had three sacks in each of those two games. Ansah has battled with injuries over the past couple seasons and that could possible push the Bears away from giving Ansah a long hefty contract. But if his end of season production is a sign of good health and that he is still in his prime then he may be worth the money.