The bears faced the second and third waves of free hands Thursday. They struck one-year deals with three veterans: running back D’Onta Foreman, tight end Robert Tonyan, and defensive tackle Andrew Billings. Tonyan was the most senior of the three in the athletic’s Top 150 at No. 90. Foreman was next at No. 123. Billings was unranked.
Best remaining available: the athleteTop 150 Free Agents
Live Updates: News, forecasts, analysis and updates
Free Agency Notes: the athlete‘s Mike Jones rates key commitments
Does the free agency work?: Rating value from 2020-2022
How they fit: The Bears are always about schema fit. It matters to general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus, and they haven’t wavered. Because of that, they’ve targeted and signed linebacker Tremaine Edmunds for their defense and right guard Nate Davis for their offense.
The same is definitely true of Tonyan and Foreman.
Tonyan’s connections begin with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. They worked together in Green Bay. Tonyan’s best season was 2020. He made 52 catches on 59 targets for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. Getsy served as the Packers’ passing game coordinator while serving as quarterbacks coach for Aaron Rodgers in his freshman year this season.
Foreman, on the other hand, had a better season than David Montgomery last season, rushing for 914 yards and five touchdowns for the Panthers. He’s a fast and explosive defenseman who played in the Titans’ run-heavy zoning scheme before going to Carolina.
On defense, the Bears needed a better pairing to tackle Justin Jones on their three-handed line. Enter billings, a natural one-technique/nose tackle. The Bears were the NFL’s worst pass-rushing team last season, but they were almost as bad against the run. Only the Texans allowed more rushing yards than the Bears. Billings tops the run.
Bears envision another great linebacker combo in Tremaine Edmunds and TJ Edwards
Effects 2023: It’s easy to project roles for everyone. Tonyan should ease tight end Cole Kmet’s heavy load, Foreman should form a capable tandem with Khalil Herbert, and Billings should be part of the Bears’ defensive line rotation, especially on early downs.
If we had to rank them by potential impact, Foreman would be number 1. He proved he can handle a significant workload last season after the Panthers traded Christian McCaffrey.
Everything he did last season resulted in career highlights. With David Montgomery now a member of the Lions, the Bears needed to bolster their running backs room and did so quickly, adding Foreman and Travis Homer earlier in the week.
Story: Foreman’s story is about resilience, a personal trait Poles seeks to identify in players. Foreman, a third-round pick for the Texans in 2017, suffered a torn Achilles tendon while scoring a touchdown against the Cardinals in his rookie season. In 2019, Foreman tore his biceps with the Colts. His career turned around with the Titans, but his tenure in Tennessee began with a stint on the practice team.
Similar to linebacker TJ Edwards, Tonyan’s addition is another homecoming for a player from the Chicago suburbs. Edwards is from Lake Villa, Illinois. Tonyan, a record quarterback in high school, hails from nearby McHenry.
Greenberg: Unlike in Carolina, DJ Moore doesn’t have big footprints with the Bears
Cap update: Speaking at a press conference earlier on Thursday at Halas Hall, the Pole summed up his team’s free-hand approach: “The aim of this off-season deal was to improve our roster now but also to remain flexible going forward so that we are healthy and remain opportunistic and continue to do so and get better, because of course we know that this process will take some time to get right.”
With plenty of room on the cap, the bears were able to sign Tonyan, Foreman and Billings with no problems. They weren’t veteran bargain bids. Foreman reportedly agreed to a $3 million deal. The Bears added Billings with a $3.5 million contract.
Outlook: The Bears have yet to sign a free agent older than 30. Foreman is 26 while Tonyan and Billings are both 28. Of course, their one-year contracts include an element of proof. But all three still fit the Poles’ approach of young, capable players with either something to prove or having more room to develop as a player.
(Photo by D’Onta Foreman: Grant Halverson / Getty Images)