The Chicago Bears got off to a fast start in 2023 free agency, adding several players expected to make a big impact next season, beginning with the decision to trade the No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers for wide receiver D.J. Moore and extending to the free-agent signings of linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and TJ Edwards, defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker, guard Nate Davis, running back Travis Homer and quarterback PJ Walker.
General manager Ryan Poles has been selective and decisive with his early spending, but there’s still work to be done. He admitted as much in his press conference Thursday. Poles acknowledged that not every hole could be filled during free agency’s first few days. The second wave of veteran signings will help fix some needs, as will the 2023 NFL Draft.
Here are the top remaining need areas on the Chicago Bears roster after the first wave of free-agent signings.
The Bears were in the early mix for Mike McGlinchey at the start of free agency, but once the Denver Broncos raised the money bar, Chicago bailed. And it appears Poles wasn’t comfortable with any of the other available tackles who signed in the first wave of free agency.
The list of best remaining offensive tackles in free agency is uninspiring. At this point, players like Paris Johnson Jr., Peter Skoronski, and Broderick Jones are good bets to be in play for the Chicago Bears at No. 9 overall in the NFL Draft.
DeMarcus Walker has interior ability but doesn’t move the needle as much as the kind of three-tech Bears fans hoped would be signed in free agency. Names like Javon Hargrave and Dre’Mont Jones were atop many Bears’ likely free-agent targets lists, but they signed monster deals with the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, respectively. Walker is a solid consolation prize, but more is needed to upgrade Chicago’s defensive line.
Perhaps a veteran like DeForest Buckner becomes available via trade. Much like offensive tackle, the remaining free agents are fringe starters who won’t be an upgrade over Justin Jones or Walker.
Georgia’s Jalen Carter’s 2023 draft stock has declined since reports of his legal troubles surfaced, but they were resolved Thursday. His pro day didn’t help his cause, which could make him slip to the Bears at No. 9. If Ryan Poles feels comfortable with his character, he’d be an incredible value in the first round.
The loss of David Montgomery delivered a hard blow to the Chicago Bears running back depth. Khalil Herbert is the presumed RB1, and newly signed Travis Homer has a chance to be the primary backup. Trestan Ebner is on the roster bubble as the potential RB3.
The Bears’ offense relied on its running game in 2022, and they’ll need to make sure there’s enough talent on the roster to maintain that strong rushing attack. Herbert has breakout potential, but an insurance policy is required.
There are plenty of veterans who can probably be signed to one-year deals (Kareem Hunt, for example) to be rotational players in 2023. The NFL Draft will also offer good value at running back in the third and fourth rounds.