Chicago Bears Get in on Free Agency Frenzy

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy is seen during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Thursday, November 22, 2018. (Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Big names, big names everywhere and not a one for me. OK, maybe that is not exactly how Samuel Taylor Coleridge put it, but that is exactly how some Chicago Bears fans felt heading into Thursday. After NFL free agency opened with a bang, the Bears came away with several new players, a couple of key losses, and a host of restless fans. The reality is, the Bears are in a unique spot entering the second year of the Matt Nagy era and, as noted here, will look to improve largely from within.

The Bears signed a quartet of players to new deals. No, they did not land Le’Veon Bell nor did they make the blockbuster trade with the Oakland Raiders (this time). Instead, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, running back Mike Davis, wide receiver/kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson, and cornerback Buster Skrine were the major adds. All bring something to the table but star power is not the first thing that comes to mind, save perhaps for Clinton-Dix.

Free Agency Moves By the Chicago Bears

Moves on Offense

Mike Davis is a career rotational/complimentary player. He has nine starts in 35 career games (out of a possible 64) with six coming in 2017 with the Seattle Seahawks. That team was 23rd in rushing yards. Davis’ two years in Seattle show vast improvement in his numbers from the previous two years, spent with the San Francisco 49ers. Which player he really is yet to be determined, as is his role on this Bears team. Expecting him to fix the Bears running woes feels like a stretch, but there are things to like.

Cordarrelle Patterson has been a bust for most of his career as a failed first-round selection (29th overall) of the Minnesota Vikings in 2013. He is averaging less than two catches per game for his career but is a Pro Bowl returner. He earned that distinction in 2013 and 2016 with matching first-team All-Pro designations to boot. Patterson was second-team All-Pro in 2015 and 2018 and just won a championship with the New England Patriots, whom he played some running back for. He should boost the Bears lackluster return game.

New Defenders of the Midway

Clinton-Dix is the crown jewel of the class and pairing him with new Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano is borderline unfair. Pagano’s track record is well documented and Clinton-Dix and Eddie Jackson have to be close to being the top pairing he has coached. A Pro Bowler in 2016, Clinton-Dix is another ballhawk in the Bears secondary. The move should allow for some exotic coverages and blitz packages. Most important is he creates turnovers. His 14 career interceptions dwarf the three by the outgoing Adrian Amos.

Last, and quite possibly least, Buster Skrine’s reputation precedes him. That is not a good thing. He began his career as a fifth-round pick (137th overall) with the Cleveland Browns before latching on with the New York Jets in 2015. He has plenty of starting experience and has played a number of positions in the secondary. But he also allowed a passer rating of 116.8, a 64.7% catch rate, and had a -13.9 coverage rating. Hopefully, Pagano and the Chicago pass rush can help him elevate his game. He was the 103rd best at his position in 2018, per Pro Football Focus.

Other Possible Options

Chicago was rumored to be shopping running back Jordan Howard but they let the market run dry on the potential of that happening. That is not really a surprise when considering cost versus shelf-life on NFL backs. The other area Chicago may look to address in free agency is pass rusher with Justin Houston and Markus Golden topping the list of available bodies. Surprisingly, slot man Bryce Callahan is still available. Perhaps his market comes back to the Bears comfort zone and the feisty nickel returns.

The other obvious avenue for outside talent is the draft. Chicago will not pick until the third day of the NFL Draft so they will need to unearth a gem. But that is something the Bears are comfortable with. They also hope to have a full season of offensive lineman Kyle Long and tight ends Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen. Coming off 12-4 seasons has not been the norm in Chicago so fan angst is understandable. But it is important to remember that last year was literally just the beginning for this team.

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