Ryan Poles

11 free agent targets who could boost Bears offense, if they hit the market

Some of these guys will get franchise tagged. Others could get extensions. But if they hit the market the Bears could be interested

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The talk of the town remains whether the Bears should draft a quarterback like Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick this April, or keep Justin Fields and trade the No. 1 pick for a second year in a row.

But before the Bears turn in their card on draft night, they’ll begin their free agency negotiations. And with a projected $50 million to spend and plenty of holes to fill on the roster, there’s a good chance they’ll be active when the market opens.

Last week we went over some defensive players who could be on GM Ryan Poles’ wishlist, if they don’t sign extensions or get tagged by their respective teams. Now let’s take a look at the offensive side of the ball.

NICK ALLEGRETTI - CHIEFS BACKUP INTERIOR LINEMAN

Not every free agent signing has to be a big splash to make a big impact for a team. Allegretti might not hit the market, since he’s proven his worth to the Chiefs as the next man up on their interior OL, but if he does he could help the Bears. Injuries happen on the OL. Starters Teven Jenkins, Nate Jones and Lucas Patrick all missed time due to injury and the Bears backups weren’t always up to snuff. Ja’Tyre Carter has yet to develop into a convincing option after the Bears selected him with a seventh-round pick in the 2022 draft, and the Bears will need to replace what Cody Whitehair brought to the team as a versatile, reliable player.

Allegretti proved he’s a warrior by playing through a torn UCL in the Super Bowl. He’s also a Certified Local Guy from Frankfort, and we know Poles loves bringing in Local Guys.

MARQUISE “HOLLYWOOD” BROWN - CARDINALS WIDE RECEIVER

Brown hasn’t been in the spotlight as much as one would expect for a player who goes by Hollywood, but if the Bears draft a promising rookie and don’t re-sign Darnell Mooney, he could be a solid veteran to add to the mix.

Brown is a former first-round draft pick who started his career in Baltimore, but never put together a massive season due to the Ravens’ run-heavy offense. The Ravens ended up trading Brown and a third-round pick to the Cardinals in exchange for a first-round pick, and he enjoyed some success in a reunion with his college QB teammate, Kyler Murray. But injuries and ineffectiveness across the entire Cardinals offense over the past two seasons dragged his numbers down. Still, he’s a sure-handed receiver who finds a way to score. In 72 career games, Brown has 313 catches for 3,644 yards and 28 touchdowns.

MIKE EVANS - BUCCANEERS WIDE RECEIVER

It feels unlikely that the Buccaneers would let Evans walk in free agency, but they have many big roster decisions to make. Evans, quarterback Baker Mayfield and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. are all candidates for a big contract, or the franchise tag. If Evans ends up being an odd man out, he could be a guy to instantly raise the profile of the offense.

People love to talk about how he’s crossed the 1,000-yard mark in every single season of his 10-year career, and rightfully so. That’s by far the most consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to start a career (Randy Moss is in second with six-consecutive seasons). The 10 seasons are tied with Moss for most 1,000-yard campaigns over an entire career, trailing only Jerry Rice’s 14 seasons. Evans has also put up major points in addition to racking up major yards. He has 94 career TDs and led the NFL last season with 13.

The way he’s done it is equally impressive. Evans hasn’t had the luxury of working primarily with Hall of Fame QBs like Rice had in Joe Montana and Steve Young. Evans has worked with the likes of Josh McCown, Mike Glennon, Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick in addition to his two seasons with Tom Brady. It doesn’t matter who’s throwing the ball, Evans is going to produce.

Finally, Evans (6’5”, 230 pounds) is the perfect complement to DJ Moore (5’11”, 210 pounds). He would give the Bears quarterback a big target for 50/50 balls down the field and knows how to use his size to box out smaller defenders in the end zone. If the Bears somehow, someway managed to add Evans to the offense, they’d immediately have one of the most dynamic and proven WR duos in the league.

NOAH FANT - SEAHAWKS TIGHT END

The Bears signed Robert Tonyan last season with the hope that he could work as a pass-catching tight end alongside Cole Kmet. It didn’t work out. Tonyan finished the year with a paltry 11 catches for 112 yards with no scores.

New offensive coordinator Shane Waldron also likes to use two tight-end sets, but it seems unlikely that Tonyan sticks around.

Enter Fant.

Fant is another former first-round draft pick who appeared to be the next big thing when he caught 170 passes for 1,905 yards and 10 touchdowns over his first three seasons. However, Fant’s production stagnated in 2022 and 2023, and he was held out of the end zone entirely.

Fant is familiar with Waldron from their two seasons together in Seattle, and he could be viewed as an asset to help Bears players learn Waldron’s concepts and language, just like Equanimeous St. Brown did for Luke Getsy over the past two seasons.

GRAHAM GLASGOW - LIONS INTERIOR LINEMAN

Glasgow is coming off the worst year of his eight-year career, so don’t expect him to push for a starting job. But Poles could look at him as a veteran backup to shore up the depth on the interior of the line without breaking the bank. For the most part, Glasgow has been a reliable player on Detroit’s vaunted o-line and could help the team bridge the gap as they continue to get younger and invest up front. He gets bonus points for Poles because he’s another Certified Local Guy from DeKalb.

HUNTER HENRY - PATRIOTS TIGHT END

Henry is another option to join the team as a second tight end, with a longer track record of pass-catching production than Fant. He’s not particularly well-known for his run blocking, but that’s not as big of a deal for the Bears since Kmet has significantly improved in that area. In seven seasons with the Chargers and Patriots, Henry caught 329 passes for 3,853 yards and 38 touchdowns.

MICHAEL PITTMAN JR. - COLTS WIDE RECEIVER

This is another player who falls into the “unlikely to hit the market” category. Pittman is young, athletic and has proven he can produce as a WR1 on a Colts team with few other pass-catching threats. It wouldn’t make sense for the Colts to move off of him, especially as they try to build an offense around second-year quarterback Anthony Richardson.

In the unlikely event that Pittman does reach free agency, and if the Bears sign him in free agency, he and Moore would become one of the most sure-handed duos in the NFL. Last season, Moore and Pittman tied for the fourth-best contested catch rate among all wide receivers with at least 100 targets, at 53.6%. Moore led that same group with a tiny 2% drop rate, while Pittman was 14th with a 4.4% drop rate.

Pittman and Moore are both just 26 years old, so each man is just entering his prime.

JOSH REYNOLDS - LIONS WIDE RECEIVER

Reynolds is not in the same tier as players like Pittman Jr. or Evans, and probably fits best as a WR3 or 4, but he could help the team as a big-play threat. The Bears have looked for a consistently explosive receiving option since Alshon Jeffery left the team in 2017 and haven’t found a guy to stick. Recently, the team has tried to draft field stretchers like Velus Jones Jr. and Tyler Scott. Jones Jr. hasn’t been able to make a big positive impact over his first two seasons, and Scott looked every bit the raw receiving prospect he was billed to be in his rookie season. Reynolds has seven years of experience working as the big play guy for the Rams, Titans and Lions. His 15.4 yards/reception rate in 2023 was 14th-highest among wide receivers with at least 50 targets.

DALTON SCHULTZ - TEXANS TIGHT END

Among the tight ends in this list, Schultz is probably the best pass catcher. He took over as the Cowboys primary tight end when future Hall of Famer Jason Witten left the team for the Raiders in 2020. Schultz didn’t match the production that Witten brought to the offense when Witten was in his prime, but by 2021 he was one of the most dynamic tight ends in the league with 78 catches for 808 yards and eight touchdowns. But Schultz’ numbers dipped a bit in 2022 and the team let him leave for the Texans in 2023. Last season, Schultz was a key part of the Texans offense, and C.J. Stroud’s success as a rookie. His 65 receptions, 715 yards and 38 catches for first downs all ranked second on the team.

COLEMAN SHELTON - RAMS CENTER

Shelton wasn’t expected to be a free agent this offseason, but according to NFL insider Aaron Wilson, Shelton had a clause in his contract that allowed him to become a free agent this year if he played more than 55% of the Rams’ offensive snaps in 2023. He blew by that threshold when he won the starting center job and retained it for the full year.

The new Bears offense is expected to look like an offshoot of the Rams offense, so Shelton should be familiar with the scheme in Chicago. Experts also point to Shelton as a solid run blocker, which is a must for the Bears. He’s no slouch in pass pro either, with just two sacks, 12 hits and 22 pressures allowed in 1,171 snaps last year, per PFF.

CONNOR WILLIAMS - DOLPHINS CENTER

Williams has been considered one of the top centers in the league for several years now, and was working on one of the best years of his career in 2023. But a groin injury cost him four games in the first half of the season, and a torn ACL cost him the last four games of the season, plus the Dolphins’ playoff game.

If the medicals say Williams won’t be able to play well into the 2024 season, the Bears will likely pass on him in free agency. But if he can reasonably return close to Week 1, he could be a guy to keep an eye on.

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