The Chicago Bears offense has been catching heat for all its on-field issues and off-field turmoil, but the defense has struggled almost as much through two games.
While improvements to QB Justin Fields‘ confidence and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s game plan appear necessary to cure what ails the Bears on the offensive side of the football, the defensive issues are potentially an easier fix. One surefire way Chicago can improve is to add another pass-rusher to the mix after generating just one sack through two games, which is tied for the worst mark in the NFL.
The trade market isn’t flush with premier edge-rushers at the moment, though Derek Barnett of the Philadelphia Eagles has seen his role diminish as the franchise has built one of the strongest defensive fronts in the league over the last couple of years.
Barnett’s agent tested the market in an effort to find a new team for the defensive end during the offseason, per an August 28 report from ESPN’s Tim McManus. And if they weren’t before, the Bears are now clearly in the market for help bolstering their pass-rush.
Chicago Offers Former 1st-Round Pick Derek Barnett Chance to Shine that He Won’t Find in Philly
Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report on Wednesday mentioned Barnett among the league’s 10 most likely trade candidates.
“Barnett has played just 30 defensive snaps through the first two weeks, which isn’t going to quiet his desire to find a more prominent role elsewhere,” Knox wrote. “The Eagles should value the depth that Barnett can provide, but if he isn’t in the team’s long-term plans, moving him would make a bit of sense. Doing so would save $3.5 million in 2023 cap space, and Barnett is set to be a free agent in 2024 anyway.”
Barnett’s contract situation offers a meaningful amount of flexibility to the Bears, should they acquire him. If the former first-r0und pick fits well and performs, Chicago can try to extend him long-term as Barnett is still just 27 years old. If he doesn’t, the team can move on from the defensive end at no cost in March and pursue bigger fish next offseason.
Bears Likely to Look Beyond Yannick Ngakoue for Long-Term Solution at Pass-Rusher
Meanwhile, Yannick Ngakoue is playing in Chicago on a one-year deal in 2023. While he has been decent to start the season, racking up 3 quarterback pressures and a sack through two games, the Bears also have flexibility to move on from him to a more complete defensive end in 2024.
Another option for the Bears is to try and find a long-term upgrade mid-season, should the right player become available. One potential candidate is defensive end Chase Young of the Washington Commanders.
The former No. 2 overall pick has struggled with injuries since winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2020. Young also missed the first contest of this season, then tallied 3 QB pressures and 1.5 sacks in his first game back last weekend against the Denver Broncos.
Chicago has a lot of cap space moving forward and will undoubtedly be looking to add a long-term cornerstone at the position of edge-rusher at some point soon — either ahead of the NFL’s October 31 trade deadline, or next offseason via free agency or the draft.