The Chicago Bears are taking another bite out of the linebacker market.
According to ESPN’s Courtney Cronin, the Bears are signing former Tennessee Titans veteran linebacker Dylan Cole to a one-year contract for the 2023 season after the team hosted him for an official visit on March 22. He is now the third linebacker to sign with Chicago in free agency behind T.J. Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds.
Cole — who turns 29 in May — played 15 games and made eight starts at the inside linebacker spot for the Titans defense in 2022, notching a career-high 64 tackles. In total, he has played 61 games over six seasons (four with the Houston Texans) and recorded a career 147 tackles along with two interceptions and nine pass deflections.
While Cole likely projects as a depth piece for the Bears in 2023 behind Edwards, Edmunds and 2022 standout rookie Jack Sanborn, his veteran experience should be an asset for a Bears linebacker position that lost most of its personnel from last season. He has also been a core member of the Titans’ special teams unit over the past two seasons (471 snaps played, 18 tackles) and figures to add value there as well for Chicago.
Bears Continue LB Overhaul With Dylan Cole Signing
The Bears have done a magnificent job upgrading their linebacker corps in the first two weeks of the new league year. They secured a two-time Pro Bowler in Edmunds for the middle of their defense to more effectively cover for the loss of All-Pro Roquan Smith. They also replaced an average starter in Nicholas Morrow with Edwards — who was Pro Football Focus’ fourth-highest-graded linebacker in 2022 and was deemed one of the best contract deals of the first wave of free agency from the sports analytics site.
While the addition of Cole isn’t quite as flashy as the other two, his signing still marked another step in the right direction for the Bears at the position. He is a far better depth piece to have in the rotation than DeMarquis Gates or Sterling Weatherford. Even if everyone stays healthy, he also has a good chance of seeing the field on defense given Eberflus’ 4-3 defensive scheme calls for more than three linebackers at times. Better to have someone with more than 60 games of experience under their belt than a late-round rookie who needs some polishing before being ready for the NFL.
Could Bears Be Waiting for More Cap Casualties?
The Bears came out swinging in the first several days of free agency. By the second day of the new league year on March 16, they had signed two new starting linebackers, a pair of running backs (D’Onta Foreman and Travis Homer), two veteran defensive linemen (DeMarcus Walker and Andrew Billings), a new backup quarterback (P.J. Walker) and one of the biggest rival’s former starting tight end (Robert Tonyan Jr). They had also acquired star wide receiver D.J. Moore from the Carolina Panthers in their deal for Chicago’s No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft.
Things cooled off pretty quickly after their big rush of signings, though. Cole is the first talent they have signed in nearly a week, and he is clearly meant to be more of a depth addition than a needle-moving veteran starter at a position of need. But while some fans are surely getting impatient with the sudden stop in action, there might be a good reason for the Bears to bide their time: the cap-casualty market.
The Bears are bound to see a few other appealing veteran players hit the open market in the upcoming summer months as teams make their post-draft decisions and weigh which of their more expensive guys they would like to designate as post-June 1 cuts. At that point, general manager Ryan Poles will know exactly how many rookies are going to be joining their 2023 roster — both drafted and undrafted — and should have a much clearer picture of where they need to add more veteran talent. All it takes is a bit of patience.