The Bears are projected to have $59.2 million in cap space going into the offseason. With a team that has plenty of holes to fill, the Bears who finished last in the NFC North last season, will look to address some of those holes and bring some new faces to the Windy City.
After determining the Bears’ needs and examining the upcoming free agency class, I’ve pinpointed a handful of players that Chicago must target in order to restore the roar for the Bears.
Here are my top five free agents the Bears must go after.
Danny Trevathan, Broncos ILB – One of the Bears weakest positions last season was inside linebacker. Currently, Chicago has Christian Jones, Shea McClellin, John Timu and Jonathan Anderson. So, acquiring the high-motored Bronco would be a huge improvement at the position. Trevathan is only 25 and was a major contributor on the Broncos’ NFL leading defense. The young linebacker had over 100 tackles and has a nose for the ball carrier, a quality defensive coordinator Vic Fangio would love to have in Chicago. Trevathan is also great at dropping back into coverage, something the Bears have been lacking from the ILB position ever since future hall of famer Brian Urlacher retired. The 25-year-old also has ties to Bears head coach John Fox, so it would be a smooth transition to Chicago.
Janoris Jenkins, Los Angeles Rams CB – The starting corners for the Bears, Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter, were inconsistent throughout 2015. Bringing in Jenkins to be the number one corner would help those inconsistencies. The former second round pick would bring that nastiness the Bears lack at the corner position. Jenkins is great at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage and possesses great ability when breaking on the ball. This is why the 27-year-old has 10 career interceptions, returning five of them for touchdowns. Jenkins is capable of making that big play that can the switch momentum of a game. Pernell McPhee recently said, “We need to grow us some dogs and play like some dogs.” Jenkins would qualify as one of those “dogs.”
Malik Jackson, Broncos DE – Here is another Bronco the Bears should target in free agency. Jackson has a high motor, is relentless in his pass rush and delivers some big hits. The 25-year-old had five sacks as a starter for the number one ranked defense last season. The five sacks don’t seem like an impressive number, however, Jackson doesn’t have to get the sacks to make an impact on the game. The way he finishes off tackles and gets off blocks makes him a player opposing teams need to gameplan for. He also has a good relationship with Fox. With the Broncos having some many free agents it could be tough to keep all their core players. Therefore, Jackson could reunite with his former coach.
James Laurinaitis, Former Los Angeles Rams LB – A quality that the Bears have been lacking at the linebacker position is leadership, something Laurinaitis can bring to the table. Laurinaitis is great at making sure that his teammates know the play and puts his teammates in positions to make plays. The 29-year-old still has plenty of football left in him and having a fresh start with a new team, could just be what Laurinaitis needs. Since being drafted in the second round in 2009, the former Ohio State Buckeye has recorded over 100 tackles in each of his last seven seasons. Laurinaitis is a smart player and knows how to fill gaps, something Jones and McClellin struggled with all season. Plus, all past Bears middle linebackers had that iconic last name: Urlacher, Singletary, Butkus … and possibly Laurinaitis.
Tashaun Gipson, Browns FS – The Bears have one safety spot solidified going into next season, with Adrian Amos, but the other is up for grabs. Veteran safety Antrel Rolle didn’t make much of an impact last season and the Bears need someone who can be a difference maker in the secondary. In four seasons, the 25-year-old has 14 interceptions. He has great instincts and doesn’t hesitate to make plays in the backfield. This defense also needs a ball-hawk in the secondary as the unit struggled to create turnovers. Adding a player like Gipson can help them get back to the identity Bears’ fans know so well – taking away the football.
By signing any of these players, the Bears would bolster their defense and bring a new sense of hope that Chicago can start to return its dearly missed defensive prowess.