Bears' Top Players to Prioritize in 2021 NFL Free Agency

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2021

Bears' Top Players to Prioritize in 2021 NFL Free Agency

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears managed to reach the postseason in 2020, which was enough of an accomplishment to save the jobs of coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. However, Chicago got to the playoffs with a mere 8-8 record and should be looking to improve its roster in the offseason.

    The Bears' biggest need is at quarterback, and Chicago may have a plan there that doesn't involve free agency. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears are prepared to make a run at Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

    "The thinking among multiple sources is the Bears have prioritized making a run at Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson," Biggs wrote.

    If Chicago somehow lands Wilson, they may not have the cap space to be players in free agency. Chicago is currently projected to be $2.8 million over the cap. If the Bears don't land Wilson and are able to clear some cap room? There are a few players they should have as top free-agent priorities.

    We'll examine three of those players here.

WR Allen Robinson II

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Given Chicago's current cap situation, it's going to be difficult to retain wide receiver Allen Robinson II. He's expected to be one of the top wide receivers available on the open market and isn't going to come at a bargain price.

    However, if the Bears can make a reunion happen, they should. Robinson has proved that he can carry a passing attack and that he's a fit for Nagy's offense. Despite getting inconsistent play from quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles in 2020, Robinson finished with 1,250 receiving yards.

    Chicago isn't exactly loaded with offensive talent either. Running back David Montgomery and wideout Darnell Mooney are fine players, but this is a team that ranked just 26th in total offense last season.

    Robinson is a legitimate No. 1 receiver. If the Bears lost him, there's no guarantee that they'll find another one this offseason.

WR Cordarrelle Patterson

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Another offensive player the Bears should hope to retain is wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. While not a true offensive centerpiece, Patterson is a versatile player who can contribute in a variety of ways.

    Whether catching passes, running the ball or returning kicks, Patterson has proved his worth to the Bears over the past two seasons. In 2020, he finished with 132 receiving yards, 232 rushing yards and 1,017 kick-return yards.

    Patterson has been a first-team All-Pro each of the past two seasons as a specialist.

    With his ability to contribute in multiple facets of the game, Patterson is a valuable chess piece who should be a free-agency priority. Letting him get away would only create more holes that need to be filled in the offseason.

OL Austin Blythe

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    One hole the Bears may need to fill with an external free agent is along the interior of the offensive line. Bears have been shuffling their line ever since the retirement of guard Kyle Long last offseason.

    In 2020, 10 different offensive linemen took snaps, with eight of them seeing at least 300 reps. Unsurprisingly, running the ball was an exercise in inconsistency, as Chicago ranked 21st with a 4.2 yards-per-carry average.

    Blythe shouldn't be one of the most coveted free agents on the market and will likely fit with Chicago's dicey cap situation. However, he can also be an asset. He played at least 997 snaps in each of the last three seasons with the Los Angeles Rams and spent time at both guard and center.

    Regardless of who the Bears have under center in 2021, improving the line in front of him would go a long way toward improving the offense. Adding Blythe could potentially help do that at the right price point.


    *Cap information via Spotrac. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.