After the end of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears still have needs. There are still veterans available in free agency to help. Here are possible targets.
The 2020 NFL Draft came and went. We all had fun with the adjustments in how the draft proceeded. Some of us enjoyed the picks the Chicago Bears made in the draft while others not so much.
No matter how you feel about general manager Ryan Pace’s picks, he and the Bears still have some needs to address. He didn’t pick up a safety, for example. If the season started today, Deon Bush would be the starter alongside Eddie Jackson. No offense to Bush, but he is more of a dependable backup than a starter.
There are some good veteran players still available via free agency. At this point, their signings wouldn’t be too expensive. According to Over The Cap, the Bears have about $11.2 million in salary cap space. There are also cuts to be made. They’re set to spend over $13.2 million on tight ends in 2020. That likely won’t happen.
It’ll be tight, but they could make another signing or two. Here are some free agents the Bears could target:
Mike Daniels, Defensive Tackle
A few seasons ago, Mike Daniels was one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL. The Green Bay Packers drafted him in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. In 2017, he played in the Pro Bowl.
A foot injury caused Daniels to miss the final six games of the 2018 season and the Packers decided to cut him. He signed with the Detroit Lions in 2019 and played in just nine games.
While his injuries are a concern, if Daniels signs with the Chicago Bears he wouldn’t be expected to be a starter. He’d be Eddie Goldman‘s backup and would have a limited number of snaps. That would benefit both Goldman and Daniels. Having two solid options in the middle helps the run defense. If the middle of the line is bottled up, ball carriers would have to try to go to the edges, where Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, Robert Quinn, and Khalil Mack are.
Devonta Freeman, Running Back
Devonta Freeman is a two-time Pro Bowl running back for the Atlanta Falcons. After six seasons in Atlanta, the Falcons cut him this offseason.
Freeman suffered an injury in 2018 that cost him 14 games. He came back in 2019 and played in 14 games, however. He had 656 yards and two touchdowns.
Freeman is another player who’d fare well with lower snaps. He and David Montgomery make a very good duo. Freeman can help the passing game out of the backfield. In 2019, he had 59 catches for 410 yards and four touchdowns. With the additions to the wide receivers and tight ends units, having running backs catch passes effectively gives the offense a big boost.
Freeman isn’t the RB1 he was but he’ll be an effective backup to Montgomery and will greatly improve the running back spot.
Cameron Erving, Offensive Line
The Chicago Bears drafted two offensive linemen in the draft, but they were the team’s final two picks in the seventh round. For now, they might not be anything more than practice squad players who might someday make the regular roster.
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Someone who can step in and contribute today is Cameron Erving. He is a tackle, but can also help at guard. He can compete for the starting guard spot but if he doesn’t win the job he’ll do a good job of being a good backup.
Erving spent the last three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, helping protect quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He has a good understanding of head coach Matt Nagy’s system. He enjoyed winning the Super Bowl with the Chiefs and could be very happy with helping the Chicago Bears win one themselves.
Reshad Jones, Safety
The final two players on this list are safeties. As I mentioned, Bush is a question mark as a starting strong safety. He’s a better backup option.
If the Bears sign a quality starter to play alongside Jackson their secondary could be one of, if not the, best unit in the NFL. If Jaylon Johnson plays the way the team expects and this is a shutdown secondary and opposing quarterbacks will find it incredibly difficult to complete passes. Also, we’ll look back at the turnovers the Bears forced in 2018 and see that was a starting point.
The first safety to look at is Reshad Jones. Jones is a ball hawk who’d complement Jackson. In 2017, he led the league in fumbles recovered for a touchdown (2). In 2018, Jackson had two interceptions and a fumble recovery returned for touchdowns.
In 2019, Jones missed 12 games due to injury. Because of the quarantine due to Covid-19, teams haven’t been able to see his medical reports. He’ll look for a one-year, “prove it” deal to show he’s over his injury. The Bears have had a few players sign those deals so another one isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Tony Jefferson, Safety
The next safety the Bears should target is the player who is Tony Jefferson, arguably the best free-agent safety when healthy. As with Jones, though, that is the question about him.
Jefferson was an undrafted free agent who signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 2013. He quickly became a star and the Baltimore Ravens signed him in 2017. In Baltimore, he played in 35 games (all starts), recorded 174 tackles, 11 passes defended, 3.5 sacks, and 2 interceptions.
In 2019, Jefferson and Earl Thomas were supposed to form a safety super combo but Jefferson went down with an ACL injury that cost him 11 games. If he’s healthy, he could form that super combo with Jackson. He stated that his rehab is on target and that he’d be ready when training camp is supposed to open in July. If the opening is delayed, that’s even better.
Again, having Jefferson and Jackson patrolling the safety spots can turn the Chicago Bears defense from an elite defense to an all-time great unit.