Bears' 2023 Free-Agent Big Board, Top Players to Target

Jake RillJanuary 23, 2023

Bears' 2023 Free-Agent Big Board, Top Players to Target

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    LAKE FOREST, ILLINOIS - JANUARY 17: General manager Ryan Poles of the Chicago Bears addresses questions after Kevin Warren was introduced as Chicago Bears president and CEO at Halas Hall on January 17, 2023 in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
    Quinn Harris/Getty Images

    After going 3-14 in the 2022 season, the Chicago Bears own the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. They'll get to acquire plenty of exciting, young players with their eight selections from April 27-29.

    But the draft won't be the only time the Bears add to their roster this offseason. With about $92 million in available cap space (the most of any team in the NFL, per Over The Cap), Chicago could be quite active in free agency, potentially even signing some top players.

    The Bears have some strong pieces to build around, such as quarterback Justin Fields and several talented young defenders. If they add the right complementary players this offseason, then they could possibly take a big step forward in 2023.

    Here's a look at several impending free agents who Chicago should have near the top of its board of targets this offseason.

Allen Lazard, Wr, Green Bay Packers

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    Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard (13) catches the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
    AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

    Fields impressed this past season, taking big steps forward in his second year in the league. However, in order for the 23-year-old to become a top-tier quarterback, the Bears need to surround him with a strong receiving corps, which hasn't quite been the case thus far.

    There aren't a ton of starting-caliber wide receivers likely to hit the free-agent market this offseason but there are some solid players who could boost Chicago's unit. That includes Allen Lazard, a player whom the Bears have become quite familiar with in the NFC North.

    Lazard, who has spent his first five NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers, is coming off a 2022 campaign in which he set career highs in catches (60), receiving yards (788) and games started (15). He also has scored 14 touchdowns over the past two years, including six in 15 games in the 2022 season.

    While Lazard likely wouldn't emerge as a No. 1 receiver for Chicago, the 27-year-old could be a solid second or third option for Fields to throw the ball to. The Bears should likely take a top wide receiver in the draft, but it would also help them to bring in a player like Lazard to add depth at the position, which is currently a weakness for the team.

Orlando Brown Jr., OT, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (57) lines up against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
    AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

    Chicago gave up 58 sacks this past season, the fourth most of any team in the NFL. So it greatly needs to strengthen its offensive line to keep Fields from spending so much time on the ground in the future.

    Braxton Jones started all 17 games at left tackle for the Bears as a rookie this past season, but the 23-year-old could be better suited for the right side. Chicago should try to bring in a stronger lineman to protect Fields' blind side, and its top target should be Orlando Brown Jr.

    Brown is a five-year NFL veteran who has started 75 games while playing for the Baltimore Ravens (2018-20) and the Kansas City Chiefs (2021-22). A four-time Pro Bowler who is set to hit free agency, Brown is also still only 26.

    There will surely be plenty of teams interested in Brown this offseason, as he'll be among the best tackles on the market. If the Bears can land him, it'll be a huge boost to their offense for multiple years, as Brown could be a core piece for the unit moving forward.

Daron Payne, DT, Washington Commanders

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    Washington Commanders defensive tackle Daron Payne (94) runs against Houston Texans guard A.J. Cann (60) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
    AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith

    It's no secret that the Bears' biggest weakness on defense this past season was their inability to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They recorded only 20 sacks, the fewest of any team in the NFL. San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, the league's sack leader, had nearly that many by himself (18.5).

    So Chicago should be looking to add pass rushers anyway possible, whether that's via free agency, trades or the draft. Among the best options on the free-agent market could be defensive tackle Daron Payne, who may not return to the Washington Commanders.

    Payne has missed only one game over his first five NFL seasons, and the 25-year-old is coming off his best year yet. After never recording more than five sacks in a season from 2018-21, he notched 11.5 in 17 games during the 2022 campaign.

    Although Payne wouldn't solve all of the Bears' pass-rushing woes himself, he'd be a tremendous presence to add to their defensive front. If they can sign him and line him up next to several other strong linemen (perhaps even a rookie or two), they should do a much better job of getting to QBs in 2023.

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