Even though we started looking at the offseason shortly after the Bears’ season-ending loss to the Vikings in early January, we can officially set our sights on the 2017 season after Sunday’s Super Bowl.
And there is no better way to start than by thumbing through the top free agents. But, of course, you have to be careful before you get too excited by the lists this time of year, since so many of the best players scheduled for free agency will not actually change teams thanks to extensions and the franchise tag.
With that in mind, Sam Monson offers at Pro Football Focus a list of the 10 best players likely to hit the free agent market.
Because of the money the Bears have available to spend in free agency and the number of holes the team needs to fill, this is an interesting list to browse through with an eye on the future.
Without giving up too much of the list (which you can check out here) here is a positional breakdown:
- Secondary (4)
- Front seven (3)
- Wide receivers (2)
- Offensive line (1)
Among the Bears’ biggest needs are in the secondary, where three of the four players in PFF’s top-10 are cornerbacks — led by A.J. Bouye of the Houston Texans. As we have noted before, this defensive backfield could use some work.
The Bears’ front seven ranked in the NFL’s bottom half and the team could conceivably find a fit from this particular group of free agents. Two of the top three players in the top-10 are edge rushers, headlined by PFF’s No. 1 likely free agent, Melvin Ingram of the Los Angeles Chargers.
Also of interest on this list is the placement of Alshon Jeffery, a player the Bears have a tough decision to make on. Jeffery isn’t just the top wide receiver on this list, he is also the top-rated offensive player and No. 2 player overall.
Here is PFF’s Jeffery excerpt:
“The Bears will likely part ways with Jeffery this offseason, having been toying with the idea of locking him down long-term over the past few seasons. Jeffery has missed too much time for the team to be able to confidently rely on him as their No. 1 target long-term, and his elite play has been too fleeting over the past few seasons. In 2016, he recorded more than five catches just twice, and had only one 100-yard plus game (in the first week of the season). Jeffery has shown big-time ability, but the Bears will likely let somebody else roll the dice on the big contract it will take to see it in the future.”
If Jeffery hits the free agent market, it means the Bears didn’t give him the exclusive franchise tag, which would bind Jeffery to the Bears. The team could hand Jeffery the non-exclusive franchise tag for a second straight offseason, which would allow him to sign with another team at the cost of two first-round draft picks going back to the Bears.
Free agent watch lists will be worth keeping tabs on this offseason, but we have to get through Super Bowl week first.