What Are The Top Free Agent Priorities For The Chicago Bears?

What Are The Top Free Agent Priorities For The Chicago Bears?
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

No team in the NFL has a bigger offseason ahead of them than the Chicago Bears.

The Bears own the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and currently lead the league in cap space by $28 million. The Bears have more than $94 million in salary cap space and will likely create even more after a few releases.

This year, several quarterbacks are considered to be among the top prospects for April’s NFL Draft. But there’s no guarantee that the Bears – who already have a young quarterback in Justin Fields – will hold on to the top overall pick. That pick would bring a lot in a trade should Chicago decide to make a deal.

BetMGM Sportsbook Illinois has former Alabama quarterback Bryce Young as the favorite, with -190 odds, to be the No. 1 selection in the draft, followed by Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud.

While the draft is the biggest story here, what can we expect the Bears to do in free agency to improve their roster? The first step is retaining some of their own free agents, including running back David Montgomery.

The negotiating window for NFL free agents starts at noon on March 13. Then the NFL free agency period begins at 4 p.m. on March 15. This is just one of many offseason developments to follow on Illinois sportsbook apps as futures odds for the 2023 season keep evolving.

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Bears Free Agent Analysis

IllinoisBet.com takes a look at some recent Bears free agent deals to recall which ones worked out well and which ones did not:

Recent Bears Free-Agent Successes

PlayerPositionYear Signed
🏈 Robert QuinnEdge2020
🏈 Cordarrelle PattersonKR2019

Recent Bears Free-Agent Failures

PlayerPositionYear Signed
🏈 Jimmy GrahamTE2020
🏈 Trey BurtonTE2018

What Bears Might Be Thinking in Free Agency

The Bears really like Khalil Herbert, but it’s clear that they also want to bring back Montgomery and keep their 1-2 punch at running back. It shouldn’t be all that difficult for both sides to find a fair number and get a deal done early in free agency. 

But which outside free agents could the Bears be interested in adding to bolster their roster and catch the attention of Illinois sports betting customers? And which positions should the team attack?

After allowing 463 points in 2022, the most in the league, Chicago has to improve its defense. The weakest spot on their roster is linebacker – not a real surprise, given that they traded away Roquan Smith after failing to complete a long-term deal.

The good news for Chicago is that free agency is loaded with linebacker talent. The top linebacker on the market is Tremaine Edmunds (Bills), who just turned 24. He'll likely want a deal similar to Smith, but maybe the Bears would be able to give him that with their excess cap space.

A cheaper option could be Leighton Vander Esch (Cowboys), who was in the same draft class as Edmunds and Smith. He’s coming off a really strong 2022 season and will cost a fraction of what Edmunds will get on the open market.

Defensive Line a Major Need

Another spot the Bears must address in free agency is their interior defensive line. They tried to sign Larry Ogunjobi last offseason, but a failed physical voided the deal. The Bears must add at least one high-end playmaker in free agency this year.

The top target is Javon Hargrave (Eagles), who is expected to earn at least $18 million per season on the open market. He's one of the best interior rushers in the league and he should be the No. 1 target for the Bears. 

Chicago also needs to add several edge rushers, but they probably won’t be in the market for a one-year rental. Instead, look for them to prioritize younger players that are still on the upswing of their careers. Marcus Davenport (Saints) is someone the Bears could gamble on, but he has had some trouble staying healthy over the past few years. Still, he's only 26 and had a nine-sack season in 2021. 

With nearly $100 million in cap space, no team in the NFL will be more aggressive in free agency. Look for the Bears to compete for all of the top free agents, and to sign three or four impact defenders. If the Bears can nail free agency and the draft, this team could turn things around in no time and perhaps reward their Illinois NFL betting backers brave enough to wager on them while the odds are right.

What Do Oddsmakers Expect from 2023 Bears?

At BetRivers Sportsbook Illinois, the Bears have +7000 odds to win the Super Bowl and +3000 odds to capture the NFC championship, not surprising coming off of a 3-14 season.

The Bears had the worst record in the league last season and lost their final 10 games after a 3-4 start that included an opening win over playoff-bound San Francisco.

The NFC North, on the other hand, could be there for the taking, even for a team that won just three games in 2022.

Caesars Sportsbook Illinois has the Bears as a +500 pick to win the division. That’s the worst among the four teams but the spread isn’t very wide, reflecting belief that there’s no dominant team.

The Detroit Lions, who have not won a division title since 1993 – so long ago that they were still in the NFC Central at the time – are installed as +140 favorites in the NFC North as of Wednesday afternoon. The defending division champion Minnesota Vikings are next at +275, the Green Bay Packers are +320, then come the Bears.

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Marcus Mosher covers the NFL, NFL Draft and NFL news for IllinoisBet.com. The managing editor of The Raiders Wire is also a contributor to The Athletic DFW, Pro Football Weekly and FanSided, and previously wrote for FanRag Sports. He hosts Locked On Cowboys Podcast.

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