The Chicago Bears gave up their first two picks of the 2019 NFL draft last offseason to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for superstar defender Khalil Mack. While this trade was certainly worth it in every way, it does leave the Bears in a tough spot to add more talent this offseason.
General Manager Ryan Pace will face a new challenge, attempting to re-load a playoff team with talent strong enough to help them move past the wildcard round instead of attempting to overhaul a losing roster.
The Chicago Bears will have around $7.2 million in cap space to spend in free agency. Who should the front office target with this limited money?
1) Retain Adrian Amos and/or Bryce Callahan
Ryan Pace should do his best to keep at least one of them. It will not be an easy task though.
It is unlikely because of their lack of cap space that they would be able to retain them both, but they were both instrumental in the Bears’ defense being the best in the NFL last season.
Pace must walk the fine line of attempting to retain a franchise defensive back while still not overpaying and draining all of the Bears’ cap room in one move.
Callahan would likely be the better of the two options to retain. He was having a great season before going down with an injury after Week 14, recording 45 combined tackles and two interceptions. He will be one of the most sought-after defensive commodities in the free agent pool this offseason and many teams will be attempting to add him to their rosters. This, along with the cornerback free agency class being overall weak, will drive up his price and make it cost more for the Bears to retain him.
Amos, also playing an instrumental role in the defense’s success, will also cost top dollar to retain. However, the safety free agency market is much more oversaturated than the cornerback market. Finding a replacement for Amos in this free agency cycle will be must easier than to find one for Callahan.
2) Trent Brown, OT
Trent Brown played left tackle for the Patriots in their latest Super Bowl championship season, but for the Bears he would likely move over to the opposite side of the line.
While Bobby Massie was not a bad right tackle by any means, he certainly was not good. He had an overwhelmingly average season and has had quite an average career.
Brown, on the other hand, is one of the most promising young linemen in both run and pass protection. At 6’8 and 359 lbs, he is also the NFL’s largest player, but does not move like it. Brown has excellent footwork and is three years younger than Massie.
While this is not a move that would be made out of absolute necessity, it is never a bad idea to upgrade the protection of your young franchise quarterback.
3) Dante Fowler Jr., EDGE
The Bears will need a third player to rotate in with Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd following the likely departure of Aaron Lynch. Lynch was a formidable third to the destructive duo of Mack and Floyd, however, his career has been riddled with injuries. He has not played 16 games in a season since his rookie year in 2014.
While Fowler has had his own history of injuries, his ceiling is much higher than that of Lynch. The third overall pick in the 2015 draft, Fowler has yet to produce at the level many anticipated him to in the NFL. However, he is still only 24 years old. There is plenty of time for Fowler to break out and have a strong career. This move would be a low-risk high-reward situation for the Bears.
If Fowler works out and has a fantastic season, the Bears may find themselves saving money next offseason. Leonard Floyd will become a free agent after next season, if Fowler has a fantastic year, he can move up into that starting role. That would mean the Bears will only need to look for another backup to play that third man role next year, potentially saving them millions of dollars. If Fowler does not break out, he will still be a formidable backup, as he was this past season in Los Angeles.
This will be the first offseason since 2011 that the Bears will have a chance to negotiate with players from a position of power. The front office will be able to pitch not only the big market of Chicago but also the opportunity to play for a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
It will be interesting to see what Ryan Pace is able to do with a strong core already in place.