It was recently announced that Leonard Floyd underwent surgery to fix a hand fracture that will end his preseason. The Bears are optimistic he will be available for Week 1, but even if that is the case, he will be forced to wear a club on his hand, which will severely limit his ability as a pass rusher and in the run game.
It is important to have a good rotation of pass rushers probably more than any other position, and the Bears were counting on Floyd to shoulder heavy playing time already. If he is limited, the pass rush, and by extension the entire defense, takes a step back.
Regardless, even before his injury, it was clear outside linebacker was a position of need. But the injury, coupled with subpar performances from the young players at the position and Aaron Lynch missing from action, might force Ryan Pace’s hand to make a move at the position.
So, who are some players that might interest the Bears?
I’ll make this short. The Bears most likely won’t pull off a trade for Mack as the odds of the Bears landing him are astronomical (+300 if you’re a gambling man), but any time a player of Mack’s caliber is even talked about being available you have to at least take a look.
The cost for the 27-year-old pass rusher would start with multiple first-round picks. The Bears would also have to throw in additional picks and possibly some young players. It gets even more complicated when you factor in Mack is a free agent after this season. That type of draft capital and financial investment into one player can severely limit a team’s flexibility.
While Mack may be one of the few players in the league who is worth that type of investment, the reality of it makes it a pipe dream. (For what it is worth, If I were the general manager of this team, I would’ve made that deal yesterday.)
Ray has had an up and down career since being drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He disappointed as a rookie before breaking out for eight sacks his sophomore season. His third year was a letdown again, and a wrist injury ended his 2017 season.
The Broncos drafted Bradley Chubb with the fifth pick this year and Ray seems to be on the outside looking in. The Broncos will most likely shop him around with the hopes of recouping some of their investment in their young draft pick.
What complicates a trade is Ray is still recovering from his wrist injury and might not be ready for Week 1. Will the Bears want to trade for another injured linebacker? Who knows. But one thing is for sure, Ray is more talented than anyone the Bears currently have at the position not named Floyd.
Galette is one of the top free agents still available. The veteran pass rusher spent his first five seasons with the New Orleans Saints before signing with Washington in 2015. Since then, he has been suspended for domestic violence, injured, retired and unretired.
While the argument can be made that the Bears shouldn’t sign him due to his domestic abuse suspension, there is no denying his ability on the field. This could be a deal breaker as Bears ownership most likely doesn’t want to live through another Ray McDonald fiasco.
In Galette’s last two seasons in New Orleans, he had 22 sacks. While he was slightly disappointing in Washington (only three sacks last season), it was his first time playing football in nearly three years. Despite his lack of production, he still graded out very highly with an 85.6 pass rush grade according to ProFootballFocus. He would instantly become the Bears’ best pure pass rusher.
Houston is someone the Bears know well and, even more importantly, he knows the Bears too. He will not have to learn a new scheme and should be able to step in right away, assuming he has stayed in shape, and contribute for the Bears.
The problem with Houston is he simply is not as talented as others on this list. In 31 games in Chicago, Houston had only 13 sacks. However, he would be a major upgrade over what the Bears currently have on the roster.
Houston seems to be the most logical and easiest call to make when addressing the position.
Simon broke out a few years ago with five sacks in limited playing time for the Houston Texans. Before last season, he signed with the Indianapolis Colts to be an outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. He’s no longer a good fit as the Colts are currently transitioning to a 4-3 scheme.
While not a prolific pass rusher, he did have three sacks in only nine games last season, and Simon’s well-rounded game makes him an attractive target. Not only can he provide some pass rush, but he plays the run and has shown the ability to drop into coverage.
Simon would be a good, cost-effective option to salvage a pass rush out of an underwhelming position group.
Lawson has been a disappointment since being drafted in the first round of the 2016 draft by the Bills. In two seasons he only has six sacks and has dealt with injuries both years in Buffalo. It appears he could be on the way out and the Bears would be wise to check in.
While he will most likely never live up to his draft status, a change of scenery could do wonders for him. He still has the potential to develop into a six-to-eight sack a year player who provides good support in the run game.
Lawson could have multiple suitors if he is released. It is possible the Bears might choose to trade a late-round pick for him to ensure they get their guy. At this point, a late-round pick would be worth it for pretty much any player on this list.
Rookie’s who could get cut
Ostman was an extremely productive college pass rusher with 33 tackles for loss and 21 sacks in his last two seasons alone. Despite his production, he went undrafted and signed with the Eagles this offseason.
Unfortunately for Ostman, and fortunately for anyone looking for young pass rushers, the Eagles have a very deep and talented defensive line rotation. Ostman is buried on the depth chart behind Brandon Graham, Michael Bennet, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, Steven Means and Josh Sweat. It will be almost impossible for him to make the team and the Bears should be licking their chops if he gets released.
I do have concerns about his ability to play right away due to him having to learn a new playbook and him coming from the MAC where the level of competition is subpar at best. But at this point, the Bears can’t get too picky with whom they acquire.
This might be wishful thinking as Ejiofor was one of my favorite players pre-draft. Regardless, a sixth-round pick who is currently fourth on the depth chart is far from a roster lock. The Texans might think they can sneak him through waivers and onto the practice squad, but his upside would be too much for the Bears to pass on.
I wrote a lot about Ejiofor leading up to the draft so you can read about him here.
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Over the next few weeks, a number of pass rushers will become available either through trade or salary dumps, including some not listed here. The Bears should, and will, be monitoring the trade market and waiver wire closely to improve one of, if not the weakest position on the roster.
Keep in mind, any player who becomes available will be available for a reason. Even Mack, who is one of the most talented players in the league, would force the Bears to mortgage their future cap and roster flexibility to acquire.
So if the Bears do acquire someone, it is important to keep expectations in check.
At the same time, with the Bears having a big hole at the position, any player will have a chance to contribute right away for the defense. They most likely will not acquire a game-changing talent like Mack, but one or two good role players could make a remarkable difference.