The Chicago Bears formally introduced five of their free agent signings Thursday at Halas Hall. General manager Ryan Poles also spoke with reporters for the first time since trading the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft. Poles again emphasized the Bears won’t be able to fix everything this offseason while also expressing his excitement for adding receiver DJ Moore as a weapon for Justin Fields.
There was plenty of ground to cover as a busy two-month stretch of roster restocking continues for the Bears. Here are four things we learned.
1. The Bears have grand visions for new linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
Edmunds agreed to a four-year, $72 million deal with $50 million guaranteed and will be pushed to produce at a high level in Matt Eberflus’ system. Poles praised Edmunds for his speed, length and ability in coverage and believes he will be a galvanizing leader within the culture the Bears are trying to build.
“He’s special,” Poles said.
After the Bears traded Roquan Smith to the Baltimore Ravens in November, Eberflus emphasized he values ball production from linebackers in his scheme. Edmunds, though, in five seasons with the Buffalo Bills, produced only five interceptions and two forced fumbles to go along with his 6½ career sacks.
Bills coaches have pushed the talented linebacker to enhance his tackling production with more splash play contributions. And it will now be up to Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams to bring that out of Edmunds at a higher level.
“Matt and his group think they can take him over the edge with some of the ball production,” Poles said.
Edmunds said Thursday it was still too early to say where he’ll fit in best in Eberflus’ defense. His attraction to the Bears in free agency, he said, went beyond just the money in his second contract.
“It goes into tradition,” Edmunds said. “It goes into the players that you have here. It goes into coaching. It goes into building something big. It’s more than just money because relationships go way further than any piece of paper could give you.”
2. The Bears are still figuring out their plans — and contingency plans — at offensive tackle.
Coming into the week, the Bears were expected to be active in the offensive tackle market, and they made a strong push to sign Mike McGlinchey when the negotiating window opened. But ultimately Poles wasn’t able to land any of the top-shelf tackle options in the first wave of free agency.
McGlinchey landed a five-year, $87.5 million deal with the Denver Broncos on Monday. Jawaan Taylor signed a four-year, $80 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs a few hours later and Kaleb McGary (three years, $34.5 million) re-signed with the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday.
Late Wednesday night, Orlando Brown Jr. got $31 million guaranteed in a four-year, $64 million contract agreement with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Poles had one season of overlap with Brown in Kansas City and asserted Thursday that “scheme match” was a question for the Bears with Brown.
On the whole, Poles remained vague about the Bears’ shopping activity down the tackle aisle.
“I will stick to this,” Poles said. “It comes down to value and where we felt comfortable with our research, our evaluations, our analytics. All of that. There was a certain (price) point (with each player) we were comfortable with based on the value and the evaluation we had. And if it surpassed that, we were OK with moving on.”
It leaves the Bears with work in their efforts to stabilize the offensive line. Braxton Jones started all 17 games at left tackle last season as rookie. Beyond Jones, the only other tackles currently on the roster are Larry Borom and Kellen Diesch.
3. The Bears plan to bring Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter in for a pre-draft visit.
Poles and Eberflus were part of a Bears contingent that traveled to Georgia’s pro day Wednesday. As a player, Carter is in the conversation as the top prospect in this year’s draft class, a quick and explosive defensive tackle with undeniable upside. But he had to cut his positional drill session short due to cramping and remains entangled in ongoing legal issues stemming from his connection to a fatal car wreck in January that took the lives of two members of the Bulldogs football program.
Carter turned himself into authorities earlier this month on misdemeanor charges of racing and reckless driving and has drawn additional scrutiny for what he told authorities after the accident.
By league rule, the Bears have the opportunity to bring 30 prospects to Halas Hall before the draft for in-person visits. Carter, Poles said, will be part of that group and the Bears sort through an increasingly complicated evaluation.
“It’s a collection of information,” Poles said. “We got some (at the combine). We got more at the pro day. We’ll bring him here, talk to him and get to know him even better. At some point in mid-April, we’ll sit down and see how we want to handle it.”
The Bears currently own the No. 9 overall pick for April’s draft and could have the opportunity to select Carter if he slides down in the first round.
4. New guard Nate Davis appreciates the physicality the Bears offensive line played with in 2022.
The Bears led the NFL in rushing last season, averaging 177.3 yards per game. In 2020, Davis was part of a Tennessee Titans line that helped pave the way for running back Derrick Henry to gain 2,027 yards.
“That’s something that we would talk about all the time in the O-line room,” Davis said. “He was such a good person, we would do everything we possibly could to help him achieve those type of things. To say that we were a part of that season, that means a lot.”
Davis played in 55 games over four seasons in Tennessee, all of them at right guard. He last played on the left side of the offensive line during his college career at Charlotte. Given the investment the Bears made in Davis with a three-year, $30 million contract, smart money says they’ll keep him where he’s most comfortable, with Teven Jenkins perhaps competing for a starting role at left guard and Cody Whitehair being considered for a move back to center.
“He has almost 4,000 snaps there,” Poles said. “He had some good seasons there. So we’re going to move this around a little bit and see if we can get the best front three possible (on the interior).”