Bears Named ‘Landing Spot’ for Top Free Agent as Talks Heat Up

The Chicago Bears have an impressive supporting cast in place for quarterback Caleb Williams’ rookie season in 2024, but one of the top remaining free agents on the market — Connor Williams — could help them take it to the next level.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Williams is “in discussions with multiple teams” about potentially signing with them for the 2024 season. The 27-year-old center has high-quality starting experience for Dallas and Miami over the past few seasons, but he is also coming off a season-ending ACL tear in 2023 from which he is still recovering.

Schefter did not disclose which teams are in contact with Williams, but that did not stop CBS Sports’ Bryan DeArdo from surveying the field and figuring out which teams might be the best “landing spots” for Williams as he charts his path for the upcoming season.

“It’s largely assumed that the Bears’ top goal for 2024 is getting No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams to the finish line healthy,” DeArdo wrote on June 19. “Adding a player of Williams’ caliber would do that while also giving some much-needed depth and versatility to Chicago’s front.”

Does Connor Williams Still Make Sense for Bears?

Williams was a popular name on free agent wishlists for the Bears heading into the start of 2024 free agency. Chicago had released veteran Cody Whitehair and did not seem interested in re-signing Lucas Patrick — he is now in New Orleans — creating a major hole in their offensive line as they prepared to draft a new franchise quarterback.

The Bears, however, did not sit on their hands and wait. Almost two weeks before the start of the new league year, the Bears traded a 2024 fifth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for veteran center/guard Ryan Bates. Then, 10 days later, they signed former Los Angeles Rams starter Coleman Shelton to a one-year, $3 million deal.

The presumption is that Bates will get first crack at winning the starting center job for the Bears in 2024, but their exact plans for the position have not been made fully clear. If the Bears are confident in the personnel they currently have — which also includes 2022 sixth-rounder Doug Kramer Jr. — then talking to Williams likely isn’t worth it.

Still, Williams has been an elite-cailber run blocker over the past two seasons and finished as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-highest-graded overall center during his last healthy season with the Dolphins in 2022. He also just turned 27, giving plenty of long-term starter potential. That could be valuable to a team with a No. 1 rookie at the helm.

The Bears would need to be confident about Williams’ ability to bounce back from a major knee surgery. As always, the price would also have to be right. If they can check those boxes, though, the Bears might want to talk to Williams before camp begins.

Which Other Positions Could Bears Sign More Talent?

The Bears taking a swing on another veteran center — a potentially pricey one, at that — would be surprising, but they have not shied away from surprises over the past few months. The trade for Keenan Allen stands out as the most jaw-dropping, but they also spent big money on running back D’Andre Swift, traded quarterback Justin Fields for a conditional sixth-rounder and drafted wide receiver Rome Odunze at No. 9 overall.

With Odunze, the surprise was more about the fact that he was still available after the first eight selections, but still a surprise nonetheless. (Thank you, Atlanta Falcons!)

If the Bears are content with their center position, though, which other positions could potentially interest them as they assess the free agent options before training camp?

Pass rusher is the big one. The Bears added veteran Jake Martin and fifth-round rookie Austin Booker to their trenches alongside Montez Sweat and DeMarcus Walker, but it is still not as deep of a group as it could be. Perhaps Chicago will consider bringing back veteran Yannick Ngakoue, someone who is already familiar with the defense. If not, their other choices include Emmaneul Ogbah, Carl Lawton and Romeo Okwara.

The Bears could also look at add another veteran cornerback to their roster. They have their three starters in Jaylon Johnson, Tyrique Stevenson and Kyler Gordon, but their best rotational options are second-year Terell Smith and fourth-year Josh Blackwell. If they want more security, Steven Nelson or Eli Apple could offer low-cost options.

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