The 2020 NFL offseason will feature an intriguing array of free agents, many of whom will come with a hefty price tag. For the Chicago Bears in particular, there aren’t many big names they will be able to go after, as the Bears have the fourth-lowest salary cap space out of all 32 NFL teams, according to Over the Cap.
The Bears have just over $5 million to work with, although they will likely be releasing several players (Adam Shaheen and Prince Amukamara could be cut, which would free up over $10 million). While Chicago will likely make multiple moves and bring in several new faces this offseason, their current fiscal situation cannot be ignored. With that considered, here are the top five affordable free agents in 2020 that would give the Bears the best bang for their buck.
Jordan Howard, Running Back
Howard is only 25 years old, and he made just over $2 million last year in his first season with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears traded him to Philadelphia in 2019 and drafted rookie David Montgomery to take his place, but bringing him back now could be a smart move for Matt Nagy and company.
Chicago drafted Howard in the fifth round (150th overall) in 2016, and while he missed several games with a shoulder injury this past season, he still averaged 4.4 yards per carry, which was the second-best average of his career. Whether Howard would want to return after the Bears traded him away to Philly for a sixth-round pick is another question. The fans love him and he knows Matt Nagy’s offense, and the Bears could also afford the $2-3 million per season deal he would require, so he’s worth strong consideration.
Kendall Fuller, Cornerback
It could be a real family affair in the Bears secondary if the team went after current Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller, who is the younger brother of current All-Pro corner Kyle. The Bears’ current corner opposite Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, is due $9 million in 2020, and the team could get more youthful at the position by signing the younger Fuller this offseason.
Kendall turns 25 this February, and his numbers in his first four years in the league are similar to Amukamara’s. In two seasons with the Chiefs and two with Washington, Kendall has six interceptions, two forced fumbles, and a sack he missed some time this year with a fractured thumb, so his 2019 numbers are down a bit from seasons past. He also performed well in the Super Bowl against the 49ers, intercepting Jimmy Garoppolo once while notching two pass defenses.
In his last four seasons, three of which were with the Bears, Amukamara had three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles, and a touchdown. Getting Fuller would be an upgrade at corner for the Bears, and Buster Skrine is also versatile enough to move to the outside if a move like this were to be made.
Bryan Bulaga, Offensive Tackle
The Packers drafted Bulaga in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, and he hasn’t played for anyone else. Spotrac has Bulaga projected to make around $10 million a year, and after losing stalwart offensive lineman Kyle Long to retirement this offseason, the Bears could use a strong veteran presence on their offensive line. Bulaga will be an unrestricted free agent, and he would certainly be worth a look.
Bonus points would go to Chicago for snagging a player away from the arch rival Packers.
Kenyan Drake, Running Back
According to Spotrac, Drake’s market value will have him costing a projected $5.5 million next year, which would be affordable for the Bears, especially if they can’t get a guy like Jordan Howard.
Drake would mesh very well in Matt Nagy’s offense. He catches the ball well, and would compliment rookie David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen, providing an additional weapon opposing defenses would have to account for. He also just turned 26 years old, and would be a better bargain than, say, Melvin Gordon.
Tyler Eifert, Tight End
Eifert has a nagging injury history, but at 29, he may have a few more years of solid play left in him. He also has a history with current Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazer. He had a one-year, $4 million deal with the Bengals this season, but the injury history should keep his asking price low enough for the Bears to afford.
An unrestricted free agent in 2020, Eifert could be especially attractive to the Bears should there be any truth to the rumors that they could sign a veteran like Andy Dalton. Regardless, he could help a tight end room that was as unproductive as they come in 2019.