Assessing likelihood Bears sign OBJ, Julio or other top free agents originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles have said they will never stop looking to improve the Bears’ roster as we head toward training camp.
The free-agent market is dwindling after Akiem Hicks agreed to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on an incentive-laden, one-year contract Tuesday. There could be a few big names hitting the market as post-June 1 cuts (keep an eye on Isaac Seumalo), but I don’t expect many earth-shattering releases.
So, since it’s June and we have little to talk about, I went through the top remaining free agents and picked out the top six to discuss the likelihood of them coming to Chicago. The Bears have over $15 million in salary-cap space, per OverTheCap, so they have room to maneuver.
(Note: Players like Rob Gronkowski and Anthony Barr didn’t make the list because they either only play with Tom Brady or don’t serve an immediate need.)
Here are my top six:
— Odell Beckham Jr.
— Duane Brown
— Trey Flowers
— J.C. Tretter
— Julio Jones
— Sheldon Richardson
Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham is currently rehabbing from the torn ACL he suffered in the Los Angeles Rams’ Super Bowl win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Everything points to Beckham rehabbing in Los Angeles and then re-signing with the Rams.
But he’s 29 and proved he’s still an elite talent when put in an offense with a quarterback who can get him the football. A team might be able to lure Beckham away with a multi-year deal, but it won’t be the Bears.
Likelihood: Not happening
Brown, 36, is coming off arguably the worst season of his career in which he allowed eight sacks and 33 total pressures for the Seattle Seahawks. Brown allowed eight sacks in the previous four seasons combined.
The Bears are banking on Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins to be their bookends this season. If Borom or Jenkins looks shaky in camp, Brown could tempt the Bears to make a short-term move to protect Justin Fields’ blindside.
Likelihood: Not impossible, but not probable
There will continue to be a lot of talk about the uncertainty of the Bears’ offensive line as we head toward the season. While the Bears signed Lucas Patrick to play center, bringing in Tretter would allow them to shift Patrick to right guard and secure the interior of the offensive line. Tretter battled knee and ankle issues last season but still was one of the better centers in the NFL.
If he’s healthy, the Bears could give him a look as a roundabout way to solve their right guard issue. But I wouldn’t bank on it.
Likelihood: Seems unlikely
The 29-year-old has had issues staying healthy over the past two seasons, but he has been one of the most consistent defensive linemen in the NFL prior to those issues. Flowers recorded at least 60 pressures and seven sacks in three consecutive seasons from 2017 to 2019.
The Bears have Robert Quinn, Trevis Gipson, and Al-Quadin Muhammad but could use another veteran edge rusher to bolster their defensive line. If Flowers can be had on a short-term deal, the Bears should be interested.
Likelihood: Hey, it’s possible
Julio Jones hasn’t been Julio Jones for the last few seasons as injuries have limited the 33-year-old to 82 catches over the previous two seasons. However, when he still can be a big-body No. 2 receiver when healthy.
That’s something the Bears could use, and finding a way to bring in Jones for a season to give Fields another target and provide a veteran mentor for Darnell Mooney wouldn’t be a horrible use of money. Jones likely will be looking to play for a contender, but it never hurts to make a phone call.
Likelihood: It makes sense, but probably not
With Hicks off the market, the Bears’ options to improve their defensive interior are dwindling. Ndamukong Suh is unlikely to join a rebuilding project and Larry Ogunjobi’s failed physical crosses him off the list.
The 31-year-old Richardson is the definition of a consistent professional. Last season, Richardson recorded four sacks and 37 total pressures for the Minnesota Vikings, and he has had at least pressures and four sacks in each of the last four seasons. He fills a clear need and should come on a short-term deal.
Likelihood: Never say never
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