Rumors: Bears could pursue former No. 1 pick for defensive help
|Monday, May 15, 2023, 1:00 PM- -|
Now that the NFL draft is officially over, it is time to get back to the NFL offseason. This is also known as the second and third wave of the free agent period, as most big-name signings were picked up prior to the NFL draft. Even at that, several big names remain on the open market, and some of them could help the Bears this season and beyond.
When you look at the Bears roster, and what has transpired since March, you must give Ryan Poles a ton of credit. He knew this offseason would be a challenge, but he did a phenomenal job adding plenty of critical pieces to this team that will help for the next several years. Poles knew this team's needs and did an exceptional job addressing those needs.
However, there is one need that the Bears must still address, and that falls on the defensive side of the ball. You could argue the Bears' most prominent area of weakness was their front seven last season, as they were ranked 30th or worse in most defensive categories. A big reason for that was their inability to stop the run, but also their inability to get after the QB.
As a team, Chicago recorded 20 sacks during the season, which was by far the lowest number of any team in the league. For the Bears to improve defensively, they need to generate more pressure on the QB. You have heard the names Frank Clark and Yannick Ngague associated with the Bears, but someone else is now starting to hear his name associated with the Bears as a potential help for their defensive unit.
That name would be former No. 1 pick from the University of South Carolina, Jadeveon Clowney. The freakishly athletic EDGE/DE burst onto the scene at South Carolina but has had a hard time staying healthy in the NFL. When healthy, he is every bit of the playmaker that people expected him to be, but he is nearing the back end of his NFL career and is looking for a spot to latch onto.
Chicago comes to mind as a potential fit, given their lack of a veteran leader on defense and their pressing need for more pass rushers. Clowney has become one of the more controversial players in football. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft and made three Pro Bowls while with the Houston Texans, but he has bounced around the league since.
Clowney has the talent, and no one will argue that, but the biggest reason he has bounced around the league so much is his inconsistency as a player. One year he plays at an all-pro level, and the next, he is nowhere to be found. Despite being 30 and entering his age 31 season, Clowney still moves exceptionally well on the field. However, given his inconsistencies, his overall trajectory makes it hard to predict how he will do.
The up-and-down nature of Clowney’s career has made it hard for him to be dependable. Looking back at his past several seasons, Clowney had nine sacks in 2018, three in 2019, zero in 2020, nine in 2021, and two in 2022. If you are going off of his recent track record, 2022 was a down season meaning 2023 could be a bounce-back campaign. If that is the Bears' thought process, perhaps giving him a one-year deal as a prove-it deal would be the way to get the most out of him.
His lack of consistent production may have taken him out of the running to be a premiere free-agent target, but for the right price, he still makes a ton of sense for many teams. Even if the odds of having a great season work against him, adding him as a short-term fixture wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
Through nine seasons, Clowney has been a polarizing figure in the NFL, mainly because teams know his potential as a player. This is a player with 43 career sacks in 109 games which averages to be five per 12 games, with injuries cutting several seasons short. Can you imagine the kind of numbers Clowney would have put up had he matched his predraft potential? Still, he is a veteran presence that this Bear's defense could use, even if he is limited to specific packages on the field.