For the first time in a long time, the Chicago Bears rank first in the NFL. Not on the record, mind you, but in cap space heading into the 2023 NFL offseason. The Bears’ offseason begins with more than $97 million in cap space, nearly $40 million more than the New England Patriots, who rank second. This means the team can pretty much do whatever it wants when it comes to Bears free agents, including signing some of the biggest names on the market, like New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley.
Saquon Barkley, RB
When you have nearly $100 million in cap space, you can afford to splurge on a luxury item or two. A top running back is a luxury item that most NFL teams shouldn’t break the bank for. But when it’s the Bears and they have a need to improve quickly and spend money, why not?
Having a dynamic RB like Barkley would take a lot of pressure off of Justin Fields. It would also allow offensive coordinator Luke Getsy to be even more creative with the running game by using Fields and Barkley together.
Now is the time to do this with the Bears’ offseason cap space. The franchise shouldn’t have to start tightening its financial belt until after a three-year, $15 million-per-year deal with Saquon Barkley ends.
Jawaan Taylor, R.T.
The Bears’ offensive line seemed like a big problem heading into last season, but it held up better than most thought. Still, there are issues in the unit that need to be addressed before it’s a playoff-caliber group.
Sophomore Teven Jenkins (RG) and rookie Braxton Jones (LT) had good seasons, but RT, C and LG can improve. A good start is with the Bears’ acquisition of Jacksonville Jaguars right tackle Jawaan Taylor.
Taylor is just 25 years old and hasn’t missed a start since entering the league in 2019. Adding him into the mix with Jenkins and Jones in his place is a great start. After that, general manager Ryan Poles, a former NFL offensive lineman, can continue to build later in the draft, which he’s done a good job of so far.
Yannick Ngakoue, DE
The Bears allowed the most points in the NFL last season (463) and the fourth-most yards (6,390). A lot of that is because the team had the fewest sacks in the league, with just 20 on the season.
All of this means that the Bears’ offseason has to consist of a complete makeover of the defensive line. This rebuild will likely include selecting Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter or Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson Jr. at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Yannick Ngakoue will be 28 years old after the NFL offseason, and the veteran pass-rusher has contributed 8.0 sacks or more in every season of his seven-year career. He’s a productive player and a veteran that a highly touted rookie can look up to and learn from.
David Onyemata, DT
The same situation of playing alongside a defensive lineman in the top five applies to David Onyemata. He’s an excellent player in his own right and will likely see even more opportunities playing alongside a first pick like Carter or Anderson.
Onyemata turned 30 in November, but he remains a productive player who had 5.0 sacks last season and a career-high 25 solo tackles. He’s solid against the run and the pass and is a player the Saints would love to keep this NFL offseason if his salary cap wasn’t the worst in the league.
If the Bears’ free agent signings this offseason could include Ngakoue and Onyemata in addition to a first pick in the unit, the Bears’ defensive line would quickly go from one of the worst in the league to one of the best. .
Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback
The latest of the Bears’ sneaky free agents to sign this NFL offseason is veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Chicago has a tough needle to thread here. The team needs a backup quarterback who can come in and potentially win games if Justin Fields loses time, as he likely will as a running quarterback.
However, the organization doesn’t want a promising young quarterback behind him who fans and media would clamor for if the going gets tough.
That’s why Bridgewater is perfect. He is a solid NFL QB who can win games in the league. Yet at 30, he is who he is, and no one thinks he’s a full-time starter who calls the sign of a team’s future. Plus, his veteran presence in the QB meeting room should help Fields’ development.