The Chicago Bears aren’t likely to be big spenders in free agency this year. Not when they’re anywhere from $2.5 million to $5 million in the red before the offseason even begins. They have work to do to even get under the salary cap. Never mind juggling their own in-house free agents headlined by Allen Robinson. If they are going to dabble on the open market, then GM Ryan Pace will do it strictly in the bargain section.
That means veteran players who can be hard on cheap one-year deals. The hope being the team can get a decent year out of them in 2021 as either a role playing starter or quality backup. They’ve had some success at this in recent years. A tribute to Pace’s ability to find credible talent in overlooked places. So who are some potential names they should be looking at?
Here is a list of possibilities as the opening of the league year approaches.
Chicago Bears can do some serious bargain hunting if they wish
Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB)
If the Bears end up digging into the bargain bin for quarterback help, they could do a lot worse than the man known as “Fitzmagic.” He’s had one of the wildest careers in NFL history. He’s hovered between starter and backup across a staggering eight different teams. He is just 33 yards shy of 35,000 for his career, has topped 20 touchdown passes in a season four times. Fitzpatrick also has 13 career 4th quarter comebacks. Even at 38-years old last season, he was a big part of the Miami Dolphins reaching 10-6. The guy is intelligent, experienced, and still has a live arm.
Brian Hill (RB)
Running back won’t be considered a priority for the Bears. Understandably so. That being said, until they find a definitive answer at quarterback it would be wise to stockpile capable ball-carriers however possible. Hill is a name that doesn’t get much fanfare. Both because he’s been primarily a backup his whole career and because he played in Atlanta. However, when given opportunities he’s produced quite a bit. Last season he had 465 yards on just 100 carries. He also caught a career-high 25 passes. Hill has averaged 4.6 yards per carry for his career. The guy might be a great rotational option alongside David Montgomery.
Dede Westbrook (WR)
It’s unfortunate Jacksonville never managed to unlock the full potential of Westbrook. At Oklahoma, he was one of the most feared deep threats in college football. Yet he always seem trapped on either a loaded depth chart or saddled with quarterbacks who couldn’t get him the ball down the field. The Chicago Bears have made it clear they’re seeking more speed for their offense. Westbrook has it and is only 27-years old. Getting him and Darnell Mooney on the field together could give them some exciting opportunities for big plays. The question is will he be fully recovered from that torn ACL?
— Josh Cohen (@JCohen_NFL) October 28, 2018
Kelvin Beachum (OT)
It’s always the steady guys who seem to get overlooked. Beachum tends to come across as somebody who is replaceable. Yet he continues to latch onto rosters everywhere and plays solid football when put on the field. He’s an experienced tackle who thrives best in pass protection. Ben Roethlisberger and Kyler Murray can both attest to his reliability. If the Bears are seeking a bargain to get out from under the expensive contracts of Charles Leno or Bobby Massie, then Beachum would be a solid bridge option for 2021. He cost Arizona the veteran minimum last season.
Jihad Ward (DL)
Some players take longer to get their career off the ground than others. Ward might be an example of this reality. The former 2nd round pick never managed to find his footing in Oakland and began a journeyman career in 2018. Last season he landed with the Baltimore Ravens where they got three sacks and 11 pressures out of him in just 10 games. Solid production for a rotational defensive lineman. He’s only 26-years old and went to college at Illinois. If the Bears end up losing Roy Robertson-Harris, Mario Edwards, and Brent Urban to free agency then this is a guy who can fill some of the voids.
Ryan Anderson (EDGE)
The former Alabama standout never became a full-time starter in Washington despite being a 2nd round pick. There are various reasons why. Part of it was being part of a stacked front seven that has had tons of talent. The other part was a shift in defensive scheme and injuries. In 2019, Anderson had four sacks despite only playing 49% of the defensive snaps. He also had nine QB hits and four tackles for a loss. He’s a bit undersized and not overly explosive but the guy is strong, smart, and disciplined. Perfect traits for a rotational backup.
— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) November 11, 2018
Raekwon McMillan (ILB)
Inside linebacker took a hit for the Chicago Bears last offseason as they lost two quality backups to other teams. Nick Kwiatkoski left for Las Vegas and Kevin Pierre-Louis headed for Washington. Their losses were felt at times during the season. So it won’t be a surprise if the team looks to add some depth and competition for Joel Iyiegbuniwe and Josh Woods this year. McMillan is another former 2nd round pick out of Alabama who has flashed potential at times but never quite turned the corner. Part of the issue is he may have been playing in the wrong system as a 4-3 middle linebacker. Maybe a shift to a 3-4 inside role, which he played in college could help him.
Miles Killebrew (S)
Tashaun Gipson, DeAndre Houston-Carson, and Deon Bush will all be free agents this spring. That would deal a significant blow to the Bears’ safety position but also their special teams. In such a case, they’d love somebody like Killebrew. The big 6’2 kid should be familiar to them. He’s played for the Detroit Lions since 2016. During that time he established himself as a capable backup who also excels in the third phase. Last season he was tied for 5th in the NFL with 12 special teams tackles. The year before he was tied for second with 15. This is the kind of guy you want on your football team.