In two weeks, NFL GMs will begin negotiating with free agents from around the league. Many teams will look for one or two big name players to add at one or two positions of need, all while making sure they don’t break the bank. But a whole lot more is on the table for Bears GM Ryan Poles in free agency. The Bears have holes all over their roster as they continue building the foundation for the future, and they’ve got more money to spend than anyone else. Their free agent wishlist is probably longer than anyone else's, and there’s a good chance they’ll be in negotiations with more players than any other team. Accordingly, Pro Football Focus predicts the Bears will sign three of their top-50 free agents.
JAVON HARGRAVE - DEFENSIVE TACKLE
PFF believes Daron Payne will remain in Washington in 2023, but they still have the Bears landing a top-flight defensive tackle in Hargrave.
“Should Hargrave make it to unrestricted free agency, the Bears almost certainly will be a suitor, with their interior defensive line earning a 36.3 grade in 2022, more than five points worse than any other interior defensive line in the NFL,” wrote Brad Spielberger and Arjun Menon. “Since 2020, Hargrave’s 92.2 pass-rush grade trails only Aaron Donald and Chris Jones at the position, with his 18.8% pass-rush win rate also ranking third.”
Hargrave can slot in at either nose or three-tech, giving the Bears versatility to add more players at either position and is coming off a career year with 11 sacks, 10 TFLs, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
MIKE MCGLINCHEY - RIGHT TACKLE
In PFF’s mock up, they have the Bears missing out on prized left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., just like they have them missing out on Payne. And just like with the Hargrave signing, PFF predicts the Bears will come away with a pretty solid consolation prize by bringing in McGlinchey to help stabilize the offensive line.
“The Bears tried going with a stop-gap option at right tackle last season by signing veteran Riley Reiff, but he endured an injury-plagued season, and he was also average when on the field,” wrote Spielberger and Menon. “Adding McGlinchey to this line would help give the Bears a long-term solution at RT, forming a promising right side of the offensive line with Teven Jenkins. In his career, McGlinchey has mostly been a better run than pass blocker, and while there is a chance that the Bears look to air it out more with better receivers around Justin Fields, they will still look to dominate on the ground with Fields’ mobility, which plays into McGlinchey’s strengths as a blocker.”
McGlinchey may not be the flashiest player on the market, but he’s reliable. He played 94% of the 49ers’ snaps in 2022 and only gave up 27 pressures in 562 passing opportunities according to PFF.
BOBBY OKEREKE - LINEBACKER
The Bears round out the list by filling another major need with a familiar face for Matt Eberflus.
“Okereke reunites with his former Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator in Bears head coach Matt Eberflus after Chicago balked at former first-round pick linebacker Roquan Smith’s asking price and traded him to the Baltimore Ravens at the trade deadline,” wrote Spielberger and Menon. “Okereke earned a career-high 79.3 run-defense grade in 2022, with his 31 run-defense stops tying for 13th.”
This would make it two consecutive seasons that the Bears add a former Colts linebacker, since the team brought in Matt Adams in 2022. But Adams didn’t contribute much, defensively. Okereke has been a tackling machine over the past two seasons, with 283 stops since the start of 2021, so he should help the Bears shore up their run defense. Okereke turns 27 this summer, so he’s got a lot of football left in the tank, too.