NFL Free Agency

19 free agents Bears may pursue if they hit the market next week

From big play receivers to ballhawking safeties and even backup linemen, the Bears could be in the market for several types of players

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We’ll soon know which premium players will hit the free agent market, and which will not. NFL teams have until 3 p.m. Wednesday to use the franchise tag. If a player is tagged, he’ll have extra time to negotiate a long-term deal with his current team. If not, he’ll be slated to officially become a free agent on Mar. 13.

After cutting both Cody Whitehair and Eddie Jackson, the Bears are projected to have $66.5 million in effective cap space per OverTheCap. And with plenty of holes to fill on the roster, there’s a good chance GM Ryan Poles will be active when the market opens.

Here’s a stab at some players who could be on Poles’ wishlist, should they become free agents next week.


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 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.


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.


Edwards emerged as a reliable option for the Chiefs last season. He took over at free safety when Bryan Cook went out with an ankle injury in December and limited opposing quarterbacks to a 48.4% completion rate when targeted. Edwards also has eight interceptions, five fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and four defensive touchdowns over his five-year career, so he has the requisite ballhawk skills to play in the Bears secondary. He was effective in the Super Bowl as well, with seven tackles and one PBU.


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.


The Rams drafted Fuller in the sixth round of the 2020 draft, and he quickly developed into a leader on the defense. He was a two-time captain over his four-year rookie contract. Fuller has the range, ballhawking and tackling skills that the Bears are looking for in Eddie Jackson’s replacement. He has seven interceptions and four forced fumbles to his name over 48 games. Fuller also led the Rams with 113 tackles in 2021 and finished second on the team with 94 tackles last year. But he’s been plagued by injuries like Jackson, too. Fuller missed time due to injury in all four of his pro seasons.


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.


It doesn’t seem likely that the Bears will retain Yannick Ngakoue and Dominique Robinson hasn’t developed into an effective pass rusher in two seasons with the team. Many folks have the Bears picking an edge rusher or two in the upcoming draft, but that wouldn’t preclude them from adding another end in free agency.

The 49ers acquired Gregory partway through the season and he’s been a rotational edge rusher for the team this year. He’s also familiar with Matt Eberflus from their time together in Dallas in 2015 and 2016. A seven-year NFL veteran, Gregory has 22 career sacks, 10 forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Gregory has four tackles and one TFL for the 49ers in this postseason.


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.


Recent reports have indicated the Bears are high on Hunter this year, if he hits the market. It’s easy to understand why, since they’ve seen how Hunter can wreck plays up close. In 14 games against the Bears, Hunter has 7.5 sacks, 14 TFL and a forced fumble. Hunter is a little older than some of the other players on this list since he’s set to turn 30 this year, but he hasn’t lost a step yet. Hunter has double digit sacks every season dating back to 2018, except for 2020 when he required season-ending surgery to fix a neck injury. He set a career high with 16.5 sacks last year, too.


The Chiefs used their franchise tag on L’Jarius Sneed on Monday, so if they can’t get a deal done with Jones he’ll become a free agent next week. Jones and the Chiefs were at an impasse for much of the 2023 offseason and at one point it seemed like they were headed towards a divorce. But the two sides agreed to a one-year deal and Jones proved once again that he’s one of the best defensive tackles in the game. Pairing him with Montez Sweat would not only boost the pass rush, but it would allow Gervon Dexter more time to develop and thrive as a second-wave lineman.

Jones racked up 10.5 sacks and 13 TFL in 2023, which earned him First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. He’s got a history of success in the Super Bowl, too. He batted three balls down at the line of scrimmage in the team’s 2020 victory over the 49ers, made five tackles in their loss to the Bucs one year later and made three tackles in last year’s win. This year, Jones added four more tackles to his Super Bowl resume and two QB hits. Jones also forced a fumble in the Chiefs’ AFC Championship win over the Bills this year.


Madubuike is another player who may never hit the market because of his dominant performance over the 2023 season. The Ravens drafted Madubuike in the third round of the 2020 draft and he steadily developed and earned more snaps every year of his career. He exploded for 13 sacks last season, which led all interior defensive linemen. He’s no slouch against the run either, with an extremely low 2.5% missed tackle rate on runs snaps per PFF.


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.


Reynolds is not in the same tier as Pittman Jr. 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.


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. 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.


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.


Stone may hit the market just because the Ravens need to allocate resources elsewhere, like retaining Madubuike. If he does, there should be several teams vying for his services in addition to the Bears. Understandable considering Stone came off the bench for the Ravens after Marcus Williams went down with an injury, and ended up finishing second in the NFL with seven interceptions. Stone is a former seventh-round pick coming off his rookie contract, and we know Poles loves players who worked their way up as late-round picks or UDFAs.


Wilkins is a surprise addition to the list after multiple reports said the Dolphins will not franchise tag him. The Bears are in the market for another DT this season since Justin Jones’ contract is set to expire next week. It’s unclear if the Bears believe Gervon Dexter is ready to take over as the team’s starting three-tech tackle as an NFL sophomore this season. If they do, they might draft another rookie DT to continue to build out the position group. If not, look for them to add a veteran to the mix. And if the Bears decide to pursue Wilkins, they won’t be alone. Disruptive defensive tackles are always in demand and several teams could benefit by adding him to their roster.

Wilkins, a former first-round pick, set a career high with nine sacks last season and added 10 TFL, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Over his five-year career, Wilkins has 20.5 sacks, 43 TFL, four forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries.


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.


Poles opted to bring in Montez Sweat rather than his former Commanders teammate, Young, at the trade deadline. Their play over the second half of the season showed Poles made the right choice.

Young looked out of sorts through most of his half-season with the 49ers, and injuries have kept him from reaching the full potential people saw when he won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020. But he put on a good showing at the Super Bowl with one sack, one TFL and two QB hits. His athletic traits are still tempting and it’s not unthinkable that the Bears would consider bringing him in on a small, short-term deal if no big market emerges for his services.

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