“Champ’s Rundown,” is the name of the recurring column by We Are Regal Radio co-founder and RedEye contributor Joe “Champ” Tanksley
As the free agency period gets started in the NFL, the Chicago Bears find themselves in position to make a lot of noise with a lot of needs to fill and a lot of money to play around with. According to the Bears themselves they have very healthy salary cap situation and aim to add a few younger impact players to the roster.
It is still a day before teams can offer contracts with new talent, but the Bears have already taken a first step towards making this off-season matter, by placing a franchise tag on receiver Alshon Jeffery, a move that allows the Bears to negotiate with his agent until July 15th on an long-term deal and gives the Bears the ability to match offers from other teams.
With that leverage-inducer in place, general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox can focus their attention on securing available free agents that can come in right away and help out the team. And the Bears need a lot of help, especially on defense.
It’s a good thing this year’s free agent market in loaded with a lot of good, young defensive players. Notably two players who recently proven they can make a difference on a championship team — defensive end Malik Jackson and linebacker Danny Trevathan from the Super Bowl 50 champion Denver Broncos.
Both players are only 26-years-old (Trevathan turns 26 in March), which helps the Bears get younger, and both are very familiar with coach Fox, who previously coached the duo in the Mile High City. Jackson or Trevathan (or God willing, both) need to be a top priority for Chicago in this free agent period.
Jackson has the versatility to play both defensive tackle and defensive in 3-4 scheme and is as much a disruptor as he is able to make impact plays as well. For those reasons he scored the first touchdown in this past Super Bowl.
The Bears pass rush was horrible last year and adding the still-developing Jackson could see a shared flourishing of the player under the eye of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and the entire line under the new signing.
Trevathan also would fill a huge gap in the Bears’ defense as a linebacker, he has the speed, physicality and instincts for the position, something that Bears linebackers have lacked for the past few seasons. He has already mentioned that he is willing to sit down and talk with Fox and Pace. I would almost wager that he is a lock to be a Bear next season.
Next on the “must-sign” list for the Bears has to be a starting cornerback. This may be a position where the Bears may wait until the draft to take on, but potential signees like Kansas City’s Sean Smith (6’3”, 218 lbs) and Janoris Jenkins from Los Angeles are worth taking a look at. These guys have the ability to shut down wide receivers, which is something the Bears desperately missed in 2015.
Last, but not least, on the list of positions the Bears should most address is left tackle.
O-lineman Charles Leno Jr. played well for the Bears last year, but the position definitely needs an upgrade. Linemen like Kelechi Osemele (ed. note — early reports Tuesday have Osemele making a move to Oakland) and Russell Okung have both played on Super Bowl champion teams and would offer some stability to the left side of the line. Okung did have surgery on his shoulder after dislocating it in the playoffs for Seattle, so there could be some risk in signing him to a long-term deal. The Bears may be willing to take a look at him for a one-year deal if the price is right.
I don’t expect the guys at Halas Hall to go out and spend up all their money with the draft coming up, but the guys listed here are the players that fans should keep tabs on as the free agent period gets started.
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