Bears Add Run-Stuffing DT From Raiders, Release Veteran QB

Billings Bears Signing

Getty Raiders defensive tackle Andrew Billings has signed a one-year contract with the Bears.

It took until the fourth full day of 2023 free agent negotiations, but the Chicago Bears have finally secured another defensive tackle for their ranks next season.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Bears are signing former Las Vegas Raiders veteran defensive tackle Andrew Billings to a one-year contract worth $3.5 million with $2.4 million fully guaranteed for the 2023 season. Billings’ agency, SportsTrust Advisors, was the first to announce that he had signed with Chicago.

Billings, 28, was one of the bright spots on the Raiders’ defensive line in 2022, starting in 14 games and recording a career-high 39 tackles, three for loss, along with one sack and 10 total pressures. According to Pro Football Focus, he was also one of the top overall run-stopping interior talents in the NFL last season, receiving the 20th-best run defense grade (72.3) among all defensive linemen — which ranked better than Bears fan-favorite trade target DeForest Buckner of the Indianapolis Colts (71.4).

The Bears have also officially released backup quarterback Trevor Siemian one day after signing former Carolina Panthers backup PJ Walker to a two-year contract. The move solidifies Walker as the backup for quarterback Justin Fields in 2023 and also saves the Bears about $1.965 million in cap space, as Siemian’s $1 million salary would have become fully guaranteed on Friday, March 17. He leaves behind $500,000 in dead cap.

Andrew Billings’ NFL Career Has Been Mixed Bag

Billings’ entire career has been about him trying to defy expectations. Draft analysts, such as ESPN’s Todd McShay, had projected him to be a late first-round selection coming out of Baylor in 2016, but he took an unexpected dive down the draft boards and eventually landed with the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round. Turns out, at just shy of 6-foot-1, there were concerns about his height translating to the NFL.

“This is something I’m going to carry with me my whole life,” Billings said of his fall in 2016, via ESPN. “It’s actually a good thing for me.”

Unfortunately, Billings got off to a rough start with the Bengals when he tore his meniscus early into his first training camp, costing him the rest of his rookie season, but he bounced back to crack the lineup as a rotational player in 2017 and was elevated to a full-time starting position in 2018 that he held for the next two seasons until he decided to opt-out in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over four seasons in Cincinnati, Billings started 37 of his 47 games and notched 80 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hits before ultimately leaving for the Cleveland Browns during the 2021 offseason. His next stop, however, worked out poorly with him playing just six games and recording just one tackle for the Browns.

A fresh start in Las Vegas seemed to do the trick for Billings, fortunately. He played some of the best football of his career for the Raiders and was a steady player in their trenches despite the overall quality of their defensive line being poor. The biggest concern with him was missed tackles (eight), but his 22 defensive stops helped make up for the times when he whiffed. Had Vegas not drafted two defensive tackles out of the 2022 class, chances are good they would have re-signed him for the 2023 season.

Now, Billings will give the Bears an improved option as their 1-technique tackle.

Bears’ D-Line Still Needs Work Despite 2 Additions

The Bears have spent the majority of their resources thus far in 2023 free agency on getting new talent for their defense. They signed a pair of experienced linebackers — T.J. Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds — and reinforced the edge of their defensive line with defensive end DeMarcus Walker, who notched a career-high seven tackles and 10 tackles for loss for Tennessee in 2022. All four of them — including Billings — should help raise the quality of the Bears defense from its miserable state last season.

Nevertheless, a big swing is still needed.

The Bears are largely expected to invest a chunk of their draft resources into new talents for their defensive line, potentially looking to cash in their No. 9 overall selection on a premier prospect who can help them lay a new foundation in 2023. Guys like Tyree Wilson, Jalen Carter, Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy and Lukas Van Ness could all be options for them in the first round, while Day 2 is also expected to have a relatively deep group of defensive linemen and edge rushers available for consideration.

The ship hasn’t sailed on free agency just yet, though, despite some of the top guys — Javon Hargrave and Dre’Mont Jones — signing with new teams. Yannick Ngakoue is still out there and could be a substantial upgrade for the Bears’ pass-rushing spots, especially if he looks to sign a one-year contract that buys Chicago time to develop young talent behind them. Other possibilities include: Frank Clark, Derrick Nnadi, Poona Ford and Jerry Tillery.

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