Bears Linked to Former First-Round Rusher Having Career Year

Daron Payne, Commanders

Getty Defensive tackle Daron Payne of the Washington Commanders tackles running back Boston Scott of the Philadelphia Eagles for a safety during a game at FedExField on September 25, 2022 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The Chicago Bears have more money to spend this offseason than any team in the NFL, and high on their list of priorities is re-establishing a dominant pass rush.

While edge defenders tend to be flashier options and receive more notoriety, a complement of players who can provide push up the middle — such as Aaron Donald, for instance — are crucial to an overpowering contingent of backfield disruptors.

There is arguably no better place to start looking for such contributors than with Daron Payne, a former first-round pick and current defensive tackle with the Washington Commanders who is set to hit free agency this offseason.

With two games remaining, Payne has set career highs with 17 quarterback hits, 16 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and five passes defensed. He is four tackles shy of tying a career high, currently with 57 on the season, per Pro Football Reference.

Daron Payne is Perfect Fit For Chicago Bears’ Defense

Daron Payne, Commanders

GettyDefensive tackle Daron Payne of the Washington Commanders reacts after recovering a fumble during the second quarter of a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 30, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Cases for the Bears’ pursuit of Payne have been prevalent for much of this year, particularly after the arrivals of new general manager Ryan Poles and new head coach Matt Eberflus.

The most recent was authored by Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report on Wednesday, December 28.

There are few things more important to an NFL defense than the ability to get after the passer. Building one of the league’s best pass rushes should be a priority to building a defense befitting the franchise’s reputation for playing great defense.

Fortunately for the Bears, Daron Payne might hit the open market just in time to form a fearsome young defensive line.

Payne is in the final year of his contract with the Washington Commanders, and there’s a chance he played his way out of being able to re-sign with the club. He had frustration with his contract situation in the spring.

The Bears just might be able to lure the 25-year-old out of the capital and into the Windy City to be the anchor of a blossoming defensive front.

Bears Likely to Select Strong Pass Rusher Early in 2023 NFL Draft

Jalen Carter, Georgia

GettyDefensive tackle Jalen Carter of the Georgia Bulldogs in action against the LSU Tigers during the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 3, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Signing Payne would be a boon for the Bears, as Ballentine suggested. Pairing him with an elite-level draft pick who can also rush the passer would be potentially franchise-changing.

Chicago should have a chance to do exactly that, regardless of where the team ends up picking in the upcoming NFL Draft. The Bears currently occupy the No. 2 overall pick, though they are right on the heels of the Houston Texans for the top spot. If Chicago loses out and Houston wins one more game, the Bears will have their pick of the entire field.

Among their most likely targets is defensive tackle Jalen Carter out of Georgia, who is stout against the run and can also create push up the middle to disrupt and/or bring down the opposing quarterback.

The other candidate is linebacker and edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. out of Alabama. Anderson is projected as a potentially generational player after amassing

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