Free-Agent Contracts Bears Must Consider Before Training Camp
The Chicago Bears have officially reported to camp and begin training at Halas Hall in hopes of improving on their 8-8 campaign from last year.
The primary mode of improvement for the team came in the draft. First-round pick Justin Fields will get his first official work with the veterans after the team traded up to get him, and Teven Jenkins will be expected to make immediate contributions at tackle.
The team was relatively quiet on the free-agent market, though. As one of the many teams that felt the salary-cap space crunch, the Bears were limited to signings such as Damiere Byrd at receiver, Damien Williams at running back and cornerback Desmond Trufant.
However, bargain-bin shopping season still isn't over. There are multiple veterans who are still without teams who would likely be willing to sign for less than the $5.9 million the Bears have in cap space right now.
Here's a handful of available veterans who could strengthen the roster even while the Bears try to pare their roster down throughout camp.
OT Rick Wagner
The tackle situation in Chicago should still have head coach Matt Nagy feeling a little uneasy. Obviously, the hope is that Teven Jenkins will be ready to play right away, but stepping in and being a competent tackle as a rookie is easier said than done.
On the other side will be Germain Ifedi, but he hasn't exactly been a world-beater in his time in Chicago or Seattle. Elijah Wilkinson is the closest thing to a swing tackle they have on the roster, but he posted a 52.5 grade with PFF last season and, at 26 years old, he might have peaked in terms of development.
The solution might be to add another veteran presence to the tackle room with a former divisional rival. Rick Wagner logged 40 starts for the Detroit Lions in three seasons and added another nine with the Green Bay Packers last season.
The 31-year-old logged a 77.0 grade with PFF in his role as a part-time starter. In Chicago, he wouldn't need to be called upon to be a starter, but the Bears would be in more capable hands than Wilkinson in case of an injury.
It also doesn't hurt that Wagner should be familiar with two division rivals.
S Tre Boston
The Chicago Bears are counting on new defensive coordinator Sean Desai to help turn around their play on the back end from last season.
Both Tashaun Gipson and Eddie Jackson had rough seasons in 2020. Gipson gave up the most yards per target (9.0) since Pro Football Reference started tracking the statistic for defensive backs in 2019. But it likely didn't help that he was on his third team in as many seasons.
Jackson was an All-Pro in 2018 and a Pro Bowler in 2019 but went from picking off eight passes in those two seasons to none in 2020. He also gave up nine yards per target.
Those numbers have to get better and likely will with Desai running the show, but it wouldn't hurt to add depth at the position. Tre Boston would offer exactly that after giving up 6.3 yards per target with the Panthers last season, and he still remains on the market.
He is by no means a stud who will lead the team in interceptions, but he is a solid defensive back who is 29 years old and capable of solid production. That's worth a lot in a league where you can never have too many DBs.
LB B.J. Goodson
Teams have a tendency to walk into camp hoping some of their young players will show improvement and step into roles. That could be why the Bears have little in the way of a backup plan at inside linebacker outside of Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan.
Smith was on the field 94 percent of the time last season and started all 16 games. Trevathan was only on the field for 77 percent of the snaps and also played all 16 games. What are the odds both inside linebackers make it through a season with no injuries?
If that happens now, the Bears are forced to go with Josh Woods, Joel Iyiegbuniwe or Christian Jones on the inside and hope one of them is able to step out of their current, mostly special teams or specialist roles.
Instead, they might want to look at the veteran linebacker group and see what's available. One name that should come up is B.J. Goodson. He has started with three teams over the last three seasons and has posted respectable numbers.
The 28-year-old will never be confused for an elite coverage linebacker, but he offers a floor that none of the reserves have shown.