No one expected Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles to fix all of the team’s problems during the 2023 free-agency signing period. Let’s face it; the Bears ended the 2022 season with the No. 1 pick for a reason. They have a lot of needs.
But Poles has done a remarkable job adding quality players to the roster. Remember: this is his first real offseason building the Chicago Bears. Last year was spent tearing down Ryan Pace’s team. Now, we’re seeing Poles add a mix of players on multi-year contracts and prove-it deals in an effort to win both now and into the future.
As Poles said in his opening press conference as Bears general manager, his goal is sustained success. You can see that philosophy at work with his decisions in 2023 free agency.
At the time of this post, the Chicago Bears have signed nine players. If you count the trade for former Carolina Panthers wide receiver DJ Moore, the total number of new faces — who will impact the team in 2023 — is 10.
Here are my grades for the nine free agents added this offseason.
Tremaine Edmunds, LB
Edmunds, 24, is an ascending superstar who understands what it means to play linebacker for the Chicago Bears. His introductory press conference made that very clear.
A sideline-to-sideline missile with exceptional coverage skills, Edmunds will be a defensive weapon against the run and pass. He’ll be the cornerstone of the Bears’ defense for a while.
TJ Edwards, LB
Edwards gets the highest grade out of any free agent signing this year because he’s the perfect example of adding a high-end starter at a team-friendly contract. Edwards was one of the highest-graded off-ball linebackers in the league in 2022, per Pro Football Focus, and will pair with Tremaine Edmunds to give the Bears one of their best 1-2 punches at linebacker since Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.
Nate Davis, OG
Davis is one of my favorite signings from this year’s group. He’s a plug-and-play starter at left or right guard and is an upgrade over Cody Whitehair and Teven Jenkins. As talented as Titans running back Derrick Henry is, Davis did his part to open running lanes for the bruising back over the last few seasons.
The biggest impact this signing may have is the flexibility it provides the Chicago Bears. Cody Whitehair will move to center, giving the Bears a two-for-one upgrade; one signing improved two positions on the offensive line.
DeMarcus Walker, DL
Is Walker the big-name defensive lineman Chicago Bears fans were hoping for? No. But he is a violent and aggressive player who can play several positions at a high level. Walker had a career-high seven sacks in 2022, and at 28 years old, he’s setting up to have his best seasons as a pro in Chicago. Walker will become a fan-favorite at Soldier Field because of his intensity and angry style of play.
Travis Homer, RB
The Homer signing is better now that he won’t be the Chicago Bears’ RB2. Better suited to be third in the pecking order, adding Homer gives the Bears very good depth at a volatile position. He also provides an upgrade on special teams, which is often overlooked during the free agency frenzy. Homer, 24, has some skills as a runner. If he gets a chance at some carries, he won’t disappoint.
PJ Walker, QB
Walker is an upgrade over Trevor Siemian at backup quarterback. His complementary skills as a runner and passer make him a natural fill-in for Justin Fields if needed. Walker signed a two-year contract, and I expect he’ll be on the Bears through the 2024 season; he won’t be a one-and-done like Siemian. It’s important to have that kind of continuity in the quarterback room. Walker brings that to Chicago.
Andrew Billings, DL
Billings is a seasoned pro with 51 starts in the NFL since entering the league in 2017. The former Baylor standout is a stout 328-pounder who will immediately upgrade the Chicago Bears’ run defense. He had a career-best 76.4 grade from Pro Football Focus last season, including a 72.4 against the run, which was also a career-high. Billings won’t be much of a factor as a pass-rusher, but with how poorly the Bears’ run defense played last year, his signing will pay dividends.
Robert Tonyan Jr., TE
Tonyan looked like an emerging star in 2020 when he scored 11 touchdowns for the Green Bay Packers, but a torn ACL in 2021 derailed his career trajectory. Now two years removed from injury, Tonyan is expected to regain the form that made him one of the league’s most effective red-zone targets. He brings more juice and wiggle in the open field than Cole Kmet and should carve out an important role on passing downs and inside the 20-yard line.