In his second offseason with the Chicago Bears, general manager Ryan Poles has plenty of salary-cap space to rework a roster that finished 3-14 in 2022.
As the NFL’s new league year approaches, allowing free agents to begin signing with new teams, the Tribune will track all of the Bears’ arrivals and departures and provide insight into what they mean.
The free-agency negotiation window opened across the league at 11 a.m. Monday. Unrestricted free agents can finalize deals when the new league year begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
- Column: Bears’ aggressive start to free agency has one common thread — young players entering their prime years
- The free-agent negotiating window is open. Where will GM Ryan Poles and the Bears turn their attention first?
- What headline-grabbing move is next? 5 Bears questions before free agency.
- Column: Ryan Poles checked a big box on the Bears’ offseason list with his bold trade. Now comes the hard part.
- Bears trade the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL draft to the Panthers. Here’s what they got in return.
The Bears are signing former Tennessee Titans defensive end DeMarcus Walker, a league source confirmed.
What it means: Walker, 28, is a six-year NFL veteran coming off a career season with the Titans in which he had seven sacks, 16 quarterback hits and 10 tackles for a loss in 17 games. He was a second-round pick by the Denver Broncos in 2017 and played in 36 games for them with five starts, notching 10½ sacks over four seasons. He had two sacks in 13 games with the Houston Texans in 2021.
Walker’s deal is for three years and $21 million with $16 million guaranteed, a league source said.
The Bears were in desperate need of help at defensive end after totaling just 20 sacks in 2022. Poles traded Khalil Mack last offseason and Robert Quinn at midseason and released Al-Quadin Muhammad last month, leaving limited options at the position. Walker joins a group that includes Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson.
Inside linebacker Tremaine Edmunds is joining the Bears on a four-year, $72 million deal, a source confirmed.
What it means: The Bears secured another playmaker for a defense in need of them and have guaranteed Edmunds $50 million on a four-year contract agreement. The signing is notable after the organization hit an impasse last fall in its negotiations with linebacker Roquan Smith. Smith was traded to the Baltimore Ravens for a second-round pick and later signed an extension in Baltimore for five years, $100 million with $60 million guaranteed.
Edmunds effectively slots in as Smith’s replacement and is the second starting-caliber linebacker the Bears have added in free agency after they earlier agreed to a three-year contract with T.J. Edwards.
Edmunds, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2018 draft by the Buffalo Bills, has made 74 career starts and won’t turn 25 until May. Last season, he had 102 tackles, a sack and an interception. His production was inconsistent over his five seasons with the Bills. But when he was at his best, he showcased impressive athleticism and feel. The Bills were in the mix to re-sign Edmunds and coach Sean McDermott sang his praises.
“To watch him mature and grow on the field and off the field has been a true joy as a coach,” McDermott said at the NFL combine two weeks ago.
The Bears, though, pushed to make Edmunds a big-ticket signing in the first wave of free agency and will welcome the linebacker into Matt Eberflus’ system.
The Bears are signing former Tennessee Titans guard Nate Davis to a three-year deal, a source confirmed.
What it means: Davis’ deal is for $30 million over three seasons with $19.25 million guaranteed.
Davis, 26, started 54 games over four seasons with the Titans, who drafted him in the third round out of Charlotte in 2019. He missed eight games over the last two seasons with COVID-19 and injuries, including ending the 2022 season on injured reserve because of an ankle injury.
The Bears were slated to have left guard Cody Whitehair and right guard Teven Jenkins return this season, so it will be worth watching to see how the addition of Davis impacts those roles. Jenkins found some success in his transition from tackle to right guard in 2022, but he battled injuries throughout the year and started just 11 games. Davis played right guard in Tennessee.
The Bears are signing former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards, a source said.
What it means: Edwards, who went to Lakes High School in Lake Villa and Wisconsin, returns home to the Chicago area. An undrafted rookie in 2019, Edwards went on to start 47 games and play in 61 for the Eagles over four seasons. He had a career-high 159 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, seven passes defended, five quarterback hits and two sacks in 2022.
The Bears are signing Edwards to a three-year, $19.5 million contract with $12 million guaranteed. After trading linebacker Roquan Smith midseason in 2022, the Bears had a big need for a playmaker at the position. They also return linebacker Jack Sanborn, who also played at Wisconsin. Edwards played middle linebacker in Philadelphia, and he likely would play at that position in Chicago too, though the Bears could also try him at the Will position.
Edwards played for an Eagles defense that ranked among the best in the NFL with just 243.7 yards allowed per game, a unit that fueled the team’s run to the Super Bowl. Edwards had six tackles and a pass defended in the Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Cornerback Josh Blackwell and defensive lineman Andrew Brown are returning, the Bears announced.
What it means: The Bears tendered one-year contracts to Blackwell and Brown, who were exclusive-rights free agents.
Blackwell, an undrafted rookie out of Duke, was a key special teams player in 2022. He had 23 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He saw time on defense in four games late in the season when injuries depleted the Bears secondary.
Brown joined the Bears in November off the Arizona Cardinals practice squad and played in five games. He has appeared in 28 games over the last four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Chargers and Bears.
Long snapper Patrick Scales is returning to the Bears, his agent tweeted.
What it means: Scales, 35, has been with the Bears since 2015 and hasn’t missed a game in the last five seasons. He returns with a specialist unit that includes kicker Cairo Santos and punter Trenton Gill.
Scales is the longest-tenured Bears player on a roster that Poles has largely turned over.
The Bears are bringing back veteran fullback Khari Blasingame on a two-year extension, according to his agency.
What it means: Blasingame joined the Bears on a one-year deal last season. And while he didn’t receive an offensive touch, he remains well-regarded inside Halas Hall for his intelligence, work ethic and toughness.
As a blocker, Blasingame contributed to a Bears offense that averaged a league-best 177.3 rushing yards per game while setting a single-season franchise record with 3,014 rushing yards. It will be interesting to see how his role evolves or expands in 2023 as coordinator Luke Getsy continues to mold the scheme around the players he has.
The Bears have significant work to do to stabilize their offense and must work through their plans in the backfield with David Montgomery in line to hit the open market next week. But Blasingame’s return was a priority. The veteran fullback spent his first three seasons in Tennessee and will look to carve out a bigger role with the Bears this season.
The Bears are releasing defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, ESPN reported.
What it means: Muhammad signed a two-year, $8 million contract last spring to join coach Matt Eberflus in Chicago. Muhammad, who is entering his seventh NFL season, was coming off a career year with the Indianapolis Colts in 2021 in which he had six sacks and 13 quarterback hits. But he totaled just 21 tackles, one sack, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble in 16 games with the Bears last season.
The Bears were expected to revamp a defensive line that contributed to just 20 team sacks. Cutting Muhammad, who will be 28 in March, saves nearly $4 million in salary-cap space and comes with just $500,000 in dead cap space, according to Spotrac.
Source: Berkshire mont
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