DeAndre Hopkins has found his new home with the Tennessee Titans. Many Bears fans were hoping to see the superstar wide receiver land in Chicago, and it’s easy to understand why. A receiver room with both Hopkins and DJ Moore would instantly become one of the best in the league.
It was never going to happen though. With the addition of Moore and rookie Tyler Scott, plus last season’s trade for Chase Claypool, the Bears are set at wide receiver. It’s more likely they’ll be subtracting at the position this summer, not adding. Further, there are other units that need much more help. The Bears could use more pass rushers at defensive end, or additional depth on the offensive line in case.
Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus have both made it clear they’re still open for business to add to the roster, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Bears made additional free agent signings over the next two weeks. If they do, here are some names that could be on their wishlist.
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DAWUANE SMOOT - DEFENSIVE END
Smoot is coming off a torn achilles injury, so the medicals might dissuade the Bears from signing him. However, if the medicals are all good Smoot could be an interesting option. Smoot was an ascending player for the Jaguars before he started ceding snaps to other players in 2022. However, Smoot still managed to produce while playing less. He recorded five sacks while only playing 44% of the team’s snaps last year. Smoot has 22.5 career sacks, 27 TFL, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries since joining the league in 2017. But things really didn’t start clicking for Smoot until 2019.
YANNICK NGAKOUE - DEFENSIVE END
Ngakoue has said he’s looking for two things: a multi-year contract, and a team that’s ready to contend or has shown signs it's on the up and up. Both of those criteria could disqualify the Bears. Poles has shown he’s going to be disciplined when signing players to long-term deals, reserving those types of contracts for players he’s convicted can be cornerstone players. Considering Ngakoue has played for five teams in seven seasons, he may not fit that bill. Of course, Ngakoue could see the Bears’ 3-14 record last season, see a QB who needs to improve in the passing attack in Justin Fields and pass himself. If things do come together though, the Bears would get an instant boost to their pass rush. In just seven seasons, Ngakoue has 65 sacks and 65 TFL. He’s had at least eight sacks every year. Most importantly, he’s great at creating takeaways. Ngakoue already has an incredible 21 forced fumbles to his name, which is the fifth-most in the NFL since he came into the league in 2016.
JUSTIN HOUSTON - DEFENSIVE END
Houston has two big connections to the Bears. First, he crossed paths with Poles in KC from 2011-2018. Then Houston went to Indianapolis where he played really well in Matt Eberflus’ defense in 2019 and 2020. Houston’s 22 sacks days are likely well behind him, but he proved he still has something left in the tank last year when he took a 20.1% pass rush win rate (17th-best in NFL among edge players per PFF) and notched 9.5 sacks in Baltimore, despite playing a career-low 44% of his team’s snaps. That could be exactly what the team is looking for, as they continue to develop their younger players. Houston has 111.5 career sacks, 130 TFL, 19 forced fumbles and 14 fumble recoveries in 12 years.
TAYLOR LEWAN - LEFT TACKLE
Like Smoot, Lewan is coming off a serious injury– the second injury to his right knee in three years– so the Bears would need assurance that his medicals are clear before moving forward. Before the recent spate of injuries though, Lewan was a reliable left tackle for the Titans. As things stand, the Bears are thin on the edges of their offensive line. They’re relying on Braxton Jones taking a big step forward in year two, and Darnell Wright making a smooth transition as a rookie. If either goes down, Larry Borom appears to be next in line, and he didn’t look as effective in year one of Luke Getsy’s new zone blocking scheme. The Bears signed both Riley Reiff and Michael Schofield to bolster the offensive line unit around this time last year, so they may do the same with another veteran like Lewan.
A.J. CANN - GUARD
The Bears are just as thin at guard as they are at tackle. Behind Teven Jenkins and Nate Davis are Lucas Patrick, Ja’Tyre Carter and Alex Leatherwood. This is Carter’s second NFL season, and he only played 31 snaps on offense last season. That’s about as inexperienced as it comes for someone who was deemed a project player when he was drafted. Patrick played guard in 2022 when his injured hand precluded him from snapping the ball, and it was a disaster. Per PFF, Patrick was the second least efficient guard in pass protection among players with at least 100 snaps. Leatherwood has yet to find his footing with the Bears. Cann is both reliable and durable, having started in 110 games since 2015. He only gave up 34 pressures last season, which ranked 33rd among all guards who played at least 500 pass blocking snaps.