Ryan Poles has plenty of holes to fill in his first offseason as Bears GM, so he will likely make several free agent signings to begin building the foundation of the 2022 roster. Since there is much work to be done, Poles has also reiterated that he’ll try to maximize the value of signing players in the second or third wave of free agency. That doesn’t mean the team won’t bring in some top-tier talent when the new league year begins on March 16. But expect the heavy lifting to be done once the marquee talent has signed and set the market. In that case, here are some names of players who the Bears could pursue once the superstars have found their new homes.
This is a great year to be searching for wide receivers, as both the free agent market and draft class are loaded with talent. If the Bears pass on big names like Amari Cooper and Chris Godwin, Gage could be a name to keep an eye on in Chicago. He’s an extremely versatile receiver, who took snaps as the X, Y and Z receiver at times for the Falcons last year. Gage succeeded in all three, and showed he’s capable of beating CBs with pure speed and quickness, or with his hands when facing press coverage. When Calvin Ridley stepped away from the game five weeks into the season, Gage also made the most of the extra opportunities he received.
Matt Eberflus has made it clear he’s looking for home run hitters in the team’s new look offense, and MVS is one of the biggest big-play threats in the league. His numbers were down a bit in 2021, but in 2020 he led the league with a whopping 20.1 yards per reception average, and turned 33 catches into six touchdowns. Valdes-Scantling also has familiarity with new Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy from their three years together in Green Bay. The one knock against Valdes-Scantling is his proclivity for drops. He had the opportunity to put up much better numbers with Aaron Rodgers setting him up for huge plays, but Valdes-Scantling has a career catch rate of under 50%, and had a whopping 11.1% drop rate in 2020.
SIDNEY JONES - CORNERBACK
Jones has had a rough start to his career, as injuries have routinely hampered him. When he was on the field, there were some concerns about his coverage, as he surrendered high completion percentages. But towards the end of 2021, Jones was playing some of the best ball of his career for the Seahawks. The Seahawks didn’t ask Jones to play much press coverage, which is a must in Eberflus’ defense. But Eberflus also asks CBs to chip in on run defense, and that’s where Jones shines. He’s great at shedding wide receiver blocks and shows prowess making open field tackles. In 47 career games, he has four interceptions, too.
TASHAUN GIPSON - SAFETY
Consistently can go a long way for safety duos in the NFL, and Gipson has been solid alongside Eddie Jackson for the past two seasons. If Poles decides to invest more in other areas of the roster, bringing back Gipson on a one-year deal could be the move for the Bears, yet again. Eberflus covets ballhawks in his secondary and Gipson has picked off 27 passes in his 10 year career.
LAKEN TOMLINSON - GUARD
We don’t know how Poles will evaluate and value James Daniels, as the former Bears second round pick hits the open market for the first time. If he decides to let Poles walk, Tomlinson could be his replacement for a few million dollars less, per year. Since 2015, Tomlinson has only missed one game, so his durability is off the charts. In addition, he’s spent the past five seasons in Kyle Shanhan’s zone blocking run scheme, something Luke Getsy is expected to implement in Chicago. If that is the plan, Tomlinson could be a great fit.