3 free agent middle linebackers Bears could target


With free agency beginning in under a week, it won’t be long until Ryan Poles begins building out the Bears 2022 roster in earnest. There are plenty of holes to fill, and not everything will be addressed right away. Poles reiterated he will try to wait to sign second or third wave players in free agency, rather than spending big on marquee players right when the new league year begins. One of the position groups where maximum value may be found is inside linebacker, as Matt Eberflus searches for the man to play beside Roquan Smith. There are plenty of veterans available on the market, and Poles may be able to sign one without breaking the bank.


It’s worth discussing Walker first, as he already has a lengthy history with Eberflus, as the two worked together from 2018-2020. Walker started 46 games for the Colts as their middle linebacker, with Eberflus as the team’s defensive coordinator. He knows what Eberflus’ defense is all about, he can make the calls, and he can help his Bears teammates make the transition, too. Walker is young, a sound tackler, a noted leader in the locker room, and Poles should be able to sign him to an affordable deal. The knock on Walker has been that he struggled in pass defense, so the Colts would sub him out on passing downs.


The Cardinals cut Hicks to make way for their 2021 first-round draft pick Zaven Collins. Many thought the addition of Collins would relegate Hicks to being a rotational player, but he remained a true three-down linebacker last year. He has enough speed to track down ball carriers or pass plays along the edges. However he can struggle getting off blocks to make tackles, which is an important trait for any middle linebacker. Hicks is 30 years old, so he should have enough left in the tank if the Bears are looking to sign someone to a one- or two-year deal.


Ok, Wagner likely won’t be a second-wave free agent, as the clear cut top middle linebacker to hit free agency. But we’d be remiss not to mention him, as his surprise release from the Seahawks shakes up the market drastically. Wagner has been one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL for most of his career. He’s a six-time First-Team All-Pro, has made the Pro Bowl every year since 2014, and has led the league in total tackles twice. In addition, Wagner’s got the ball skills that Eberflus covets in every one of his players. With 11 career interceptions, nine fumble recoveries, six forced fumbles and four touchdowns scored, Wagner is a true game changer in the middle of the defense. If Eberflus wants Smith to play weakside linebacker, bringing in Wagner to play in the middle would give the Bears one of the best linebacker duos in the league, if not the top unit. If there's one factor that could drive Wagner's price down, it's that he's set to turn 32 this year.

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