Bears come out swinging as NFL legal tampering period opens
NFC North Reporter
With nearly $80 million in cap space to spend, the Chicago Bears wasted no time making moves for 2023 at the start of the NFL’s legal tampering window.
Sure, that’s an oxymoron, but it’s all part of the game and the Bears took a few squares ahead in minutes at noon ET Monday. Chicago signed linebacker TJ Edwards, a free agent fresh off a Super Bowl appearance with the Philadelphia Eagles, while later nabbing linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in a blockbuster deal and guard Nate Davis almost simultaneously.
Edwards, a former undrafted free agent, made a significant impact in Philadelphia as the team lifted the Halas Trophy in the NFC Championship last January. He was the defensive signalman, carrying the green dot to relay defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s field plays.
The Chicago-area native played football in Wisconsin and was ranked the sixth-best linebacker in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus. He was teammate in college with current Bears linebacker and pleasantly surprised Jack Sanborn, who went from undrafted to a starting role in his rookie season last season. With the terms announced for Edwards, including only $12 million in guarantees, the Bears found themselves with great value for a player who figures as the defensive cornerstone of a three-year contract.
Bears get help for Justin Fields, secure future by trading No. 1 pick
The Bears are young with their off-ball linebacking corps thanks to the trade of Roquan Smith midway through the 2022 season. Nicholas Morrow moved to the weak side after Smith’s departure but is expected to be an unrestricted free agent. What did the bears do? They were promoted to Edmunds, who signed the biggest four-year contract of any off-ball linebacker when he reportedly agreed to terms of an $18 million annual salary for a total of $72 million. dollars, of which $50 million guaranteed. Moreover, he is not even 25 years old. Edmunds has eclipsed 100 tackles every year he’s been in the league, starting in 2018 and has already appeared in two Pro Bowls. He thinks he’s occupying the weak side of Chicago’s 4-3 base system now. Whether he or Edwards calls the defense is yet to be determined.
He’s a particularly good signing considering the moves made with Smith. Sure, they could have stuck with the former Georgia Bulldog the Bears drafted in the 2018 NFL Draft, but Smith was looking for a max contract. It was the Ravens who traded for him, giving Chicago and second- and fifth-round picks in exchange. They then signed Smith to a five-year, $100 million deal with $60 million in guarantees.
Not only did Edmunds come in cheaper than that, he’s younger than Smith and the Bears were able to get some extra capital. They had so much of a surplus that they flipped their first second-round pick on wide receiver Chase Claypool just before the trade deadline. Although Claypool has yet to contribute significantly, he is the team’s third wide receiver in 2023.
That means general manager Ryan Poles got a younger linebacker of the same caliber as Smith, but was also able to secure a much-needed weapon for Fields and some extra draft capital in the process.
Not to mention, weakside linebacker is one of the two most crucial positions in head coach Matt Eberflus’ Tampa-2 defense. The Bears still have a question mark over the technical three up front, but they’ve gone the veteran/free agency route with their other critical position with the signing of Edmunds and/or Edwards (who finds himself at what position between MIKE and WILL remains to be determined).
Jalen Carter was thought to be one of the Bears’ 2023 draft targets, fitting the bill for an athletic defensive tackle and rushing passes, but with the off-field issues that have arisen, Carter doesn’t seem like an option. likely. Chicago traded the first overall pick last Friday for Carolina and will now make its first selection of the 2023 NFL Draft at No. 9 overall.
Bears deal #1 overall pick
Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe react when the Bears trade the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft to the Panthers.
Not to be outdone, the Bears addressed the offensive side of the ball by bolstering the offensive line past quarterback Justin Fields. Having already got Fields a top wide receiver in their trade from first place overall in DJ Moore, Poles focused on protecting Fields. Davis is a notorious run blocker, playing a key role in running back Derrick Henry’s record success in Tennessee. Since Davis was drafted in 2019, Henry has rushed for 1,540 yards in Davis’ rookie season, 2,027 yards in 2020, 937 yards in just eight games in 2021 and 1,538 yards despite struggling throughout. the offensive line last season.
Henry was the league’s top rusher in Davis’ first two years.
Perhaps the move could prevent running back David Montgomery from testing the open market and allow Chicago to retain its local bottleneck. Montgomery is expected to be a free agent but has provided stability for the Bears offense. He and Khalil Herbert could round out a backfield that includes Fields’ serves to further accentuate opposing defenses as they settle into offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s bespoke system.
Between Friday’s first overall pick trade and Monday’s flurry of moves, the Bears are sending their entire rebuild into overdrive. While still a multi-year process, the Bears could be looking at a playoff as early as next season. Never has there been such consensus on Bears Twitter about how Chicago has positioned itself or how much confidence fans now have in the front office.
Players have noticed this too.
It seems that the Poles play chess while the rest of the league plays checkers.
Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen has previously made stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the Super Bowl champion title (and Boat Parade participant) to her resume. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.
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