Insider: Bears Are ‘Best Fit’ for 2021 Bills Starter

Daryl Williams

Getty Ex-Bills OL Daryl Williams is still a free agent.

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles has avoided splash signings since getting hired by the team in January. Instead, Poles has gone after middle-of-the-road players like wide receiver Byron Pringle and linebacker Matt Adams, inking them to shorter, cheaper prove-it deals.

Considering Chicago’s needs coupled with Poles’ philosophy thus far, it might behoove the Bears to take a long look at one remaining free agent in particular: former Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers offensive lineman Daryl Williams. In fact, Heavy’s NFL insider Matt Lombardo thinks the Bears are the “best fit” for the veteran O-Lineman.

Williams is durable — he hasn’t missed a game since the 2018 season — and he has experience playing both guard and tackle, so he would be an ideal plug-and-play guy for a Bears team that’s one injury away from catastrophe where the O-Line is concerned.

Lombardo: Williams May Be Most Versatile Free Agent Lineman Available

“There might not be a more versatile offensive lineman remaining on the open market than Daryl Williams,” Lombardo wrote on September 15. “Prior to playing much of last season at offensive guard in Buffalo, Williams has also spent time at both offensive tackle positions, throughout the course of his seven-year career.”

Williams, 30, spent his first five years with the Carolina Panthers before heading to Buffalo for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He has played an 89 career games (74 starts), only missing significant time in 2018 after having knee surgery. A second-team All-Pro in 2017, he has played at both right and left tackle, and has also taken snaps at left and right guard.

The 6-foot-6, 330-pound Williams has also performed capably in recent years. In 778 pass blocking snaps at RG and RT with Buffalo last season, Williams allowed 40 total pressures, nine QB hits and 4.0 sacks, earning a 67.5 overall grade prom Pro Football Focus to go with a solid 72.4 pass block grade. He also drew six flags.

While he’s not a top-tier offensive lineman by any means, Williams could still be a solid addition for teams with shaky lines — and the Bears fit that description.

Bears’ O-Line Depth Isn’t Great

The Bears gave up two sacks in their Week 1 win over the San Francisco 49ers, and while some on the line played well (Teven Jenkins was solid at right guard and Larry Borom held his own at RT), others struggled, including fifth-round rookie Braxton Jones. While no one expects Jones to be a game-changer right away, if he continues his inconsistent play, that could spell trouble for quarterback Justin Fields.

“If the Bears are serious about Fields’ development, they need to address the offensive line, and bringing in a veteran with Williams’ body of work and postseason experience would be a significant step in the right direction, at least for the remainder of 2022,” Lombardo added.

There’s also a legit depth issue for Chicago. If any one of the five starters goes down with an injury, they have veteran Riley Reiff and the recently-signed Michael Schofield, but that’s about it. Williams would be an upgrade over both of them.

It’s a bit of a surprise Williams hasn’t caught on anywhere yet. He signed a three-year extension worth up to $24 million with the Bills in 2021, but they cut him in a cap-saving move after one year, clearing around $6 million. The Bears currently have just over $7.3 million in cap space, per Over the Cap, so they could afford another one of the cheaper, one-year deals Poles has highly favored. It wouldn’t be an Earth-shattering move, but it could prove to be a wise one by season’s end.

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