Three defensive free agents who could help the Bears
|Thursday, May 25, 2023, 8:32 AM- -|
No one will argue with you when you talk about how aggressive this Bears team was to start free agency. They had to be. Anytime you come off of the worst season in franchise history to secure the No. 1 pick, changes need to be made, and those changes started with an aggressive start to the offseason.
Adding DJ Moore to the offense via a trade will undoubtedly help Justin Fields take that next step, but the defense was the bigger issue a season ago. For a team known as the Monsters of the Midway, they were far from Monsters on defense, and that doesn't bode well in an NFL where scoring has become higher with the new rule changes.
In an effort to improve their defense, Ryan Poles made it a point to target defensive help in the early stages of free agency and made a killing by signing some prized talents. Then you add in Gervon Dexter via the NFL draft, and the Bears defense will be in a better place for Alan Williams in year two, which is a good thing.
However, despite the overall improvements, the defense still could use more retooling, and Poles knows that, so he is considering all options on how to improve it. Whether that be the trade market or free agency, Poles knows what needs to happen and is trying to figure out the perfect way to go about everything.
Entering free agency, the Bears had the most money of anyone, which is why they were so aggressive early on. Even after all of the moves, the Bears still have north of 30 million dollars left in overall cap space, which should allow them to sign several starting-caliber players should they choose to.
I expect Poles to look into the free agent market for some names, and there are some intriguing ones that could fit into the Chicago system quite well.
Anthony Brown (CB Dallas)
If there was one area on the defense that appears set for the foreseeable future, it would be the secondary. With guys like Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, Jaquon Brisker, and Eddie Jackson, to name a few, the Chicago secondary is not only one of the youngest units in football but a unit that can be a top-five unit if all goes well.
Even at that, adding depth never hurt anyone, and Brown would be a nice depth piece for this team. Brown was a sixth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2016. This was when Matt Eberflus was part of the Cowboys' defensive coaching staff, so there is some familiarity with how Eberflus likes to run things on defense.
Brown is currently 29 and will not be 30 until December. Anthony Brown has started 69 games in seven years and played in 94. He has nine interceptions and a return for a touchdown. Brown has five forced fumbles and a fumble recovery during that time too. He has averaged 46 tackles per season (37 solos). Those are excellent numbers for someone who may land a backup role this season, but his experience is something the defensive backroom could use, as every player is under the age of 30.
Armani Watts (S Indianapolis)
As mentioned, the defensive backs portion of the defense appears set, but adding depth is always something you look for. Watts is not only another depth piece but another player familiar with both Eberflus and Williams, as he spent time with them while they were in Indianapolis.
Not only does Watts have familiarity with Eberflus and Williams, but Also Poles, who was part of the Chiefs staff that drafted him in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. Watts was expected to play a massive role for the Colts last season, but an ankle injury saw his season end before it started, as he spent the entire year on IR before being cut this offseason.
The Bears need some safety depth, and at 27 years old, Watts can give them that depth if he is fully healthy and ready to go. Watts may not be counted on as a starter, but he can step in and fill in as needed, which has been often when you look at his overall numbers.
In 2021, Watts played in 16 games. He finished the year with 19 combined tackles (11 solos), a tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery. Ten of those tackles came on special teams. He played three games during the playoffs and finished with nine combined tackles (four solos). Two of those tackles were special teams stops. Adding Watts to the roster won't be a splash, but he makes sense.
William Gholston (DE Tampa)
The most significant area of concern still lingering over this Bears team is the pass rush from last season and where it will come from this year. After finishing with a league-worst 20 sacks last season, the Bears knew they needed to improve that area of the defense, but haven't done as well as some have hoped.
Don't worry, Chicago fans. There could be some help still out there, and Gholston could provide the help Chicago is looking for. While most fans would like a Justin Houston signing or a big-name splash pickup, it seems unlikely Poles will spend that much, which is where Gholston steps into the mix.
A fourth-round pick in 2013, Gholston is nearing the end of his career but has spent his entire career with Tampa Bay until this offseason. During his career, Gholston has been a very solid and consistent player who is important both on and off the field. He was a Walter Payton Man of the Year Nominee in 2021, which will fit in nicely with the Chicago community.
Bringing in a player like Gholston might not make sense, as he has never had more than 4.5 sacks in a single season and didn't have any last year. However, he has a connection to two defensive coaches -- Jon Hoke and Dave Borgonzi, who both coached in Tampa Bay while Gholston was playing. Having a relationship with coaches in this league is crucial, and those two might be able to get the most out of Gholston one last time.
At 32 years old, Gholston is a bit older than you would like to see, but his size and experience would make a ton of sense as a camp body. From there, it would be on him to put the work in to make the team.