Bears Eyeing Potential ‘Contingency Plan’ for Jalen Carter

Bresee Bears Contingency

Getty Clemson defensive lineman Bryan Bresee could be in play for the Bears at No. 9 overall in the 2023 NFL draft.

The Chicago Bears are still showing a noteworthy amount of interest in Georgia standout defensive tackle Jalen Carter as an option at No. 9 overall in the 2023 NFL draft, but one insider believes they might also have their eyes on another star defensive tackle in the class as a potential “contingency plan” just in case.

Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network recently dished on some of the draft intel he has picked up from his sources around the league and made an interesting note about the Bears and the interest they have been paying to Clemson star Bryan Bresee.

“One team also showing interest [in Bresee] are the Bears,” Pauline wrote in his March 15 article for PFN. “Could Bresee be the contingency plan if the Jalen Carter situation is not settled by draft weekend? It’s seeming more plausible to me.”

Bresee is the 10th-ranked prospect on The Draft Network’s big board and as far down as No. 20 on Pro Football Focus’ post-NFL Combine evaluations of the prospects, but he remains a promising NFL-ready option for any team looking to add a 3-technique defensive tackle — such as the Bears — to their roster for next season. He also further solidified his potential as a first-round selection during Clemson’s pro day on March 14 with Pauline noting how he “impressed the people who came to see him.”

“Bresee redid the bench press and completed 28 reps, significantly better than his mark of 22 from Indianapolis,” Pauline wrote. “His short shuttle time was fast at 4.43 seconds, and his three-cone time of 7.39 seconds was an outstanding mark. The short shuttle time would’ve put him at the top of the defensive tackle chart at the Combine. Bresee looked outstanding in drills and was impressively athletic.”

Would Bears Consider Bryan Bresee at No. 9 Overall?

Bresee is more athletic than his 6-foot-5, 302-pound frame might suggest. The numbers Pauline cited from Clemson’s pro day support that notion, but so does the tape when looking at the time when Bresee was at his best. Some of his best ball was played during his freshman season in 2020, when he notched four sacks and 33 tackles for the Tigers and finished as the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year. He also manufactured a total of 60 pressures over the course of his three-year collegiate career, largely due to his blend of strength and athleticism that made him a consistent disrupter.

Given how terrible the Bears’ defensive front played in 2022, they could surely put a guy like Bresee to good use as the “engine” and centerpiece of Matt Eberflus’ defense.

Bresee did have a noticeable dropoff in his production during his 2022 junior year as he bounced back from a season-ending knee injury, but it wasn’t a decline that was as simple as, “He fell off.” As The Associated Press has covered, Bresee lost his younger sister, Ella, to an aggressive form of brain cancer in September last year, then developed his own health issues — a kidney infection — that lengthened his recovery time and caused him to gain weight. He still notched 5.5 tackles for a loss in 2022, but he wasn’t the same player he had been before his injury for a completely understandable reason.

Based on how Bresee has been testing throughout the pre-draft process, it seems likely that at least one team will want to take a chance on him in April’s first round. Will the Bears buy into the player he had been, though, as far up as No. 9 or would they prefer more of a sure-thing for their top-10 overall draft selection?

Better Option for Bears Might Be 1st-Round OT

Johnson Bresee Bears

Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. has history blocking for Bears quarterback Justin Fields.

The Bears would be smart to have a handful of defensive players on their radar for the ninth overall selection. Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson was extremely impressive at the NFL Combine and would be a steal for the edge of their defensive line, if available. Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness, Clemson’s Myles Murphy and Georgia’s Nolan Smith would also make for compelling additions to their defensive ranks.

After the first several days of 2023 free agent negotiations, though, the best overall option for the Bears at No. 9 overall still seems to be offensive tackle.

The Bears signed interior offensive lineman Nate Davis to a three-year, $30 million contract, but they have done nothing thus far to reinforce their depleted tackle positions, where All-Rookie Braxton Jones is currently the only starter-ready option. They are also starting to run out of options with big-ticket free agents such as Orlando Brown Jr., Mike McGlinchey and Kaleb McGary off the market. At this point, even if they do add a veteran to the room, more talent should be a priority in the 2023 draft.

Why not make it their top priority?

Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski — who drew quite a bit of interest from the Bears at his pro day this week — and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. are two of the top tackles in the 2023 class and should both be sitting there when the Bears are on the clock at No. 9. Regardless of which they prefer, either one would be an immediate upgrade for the offensive trenches tasked with keeping Justin Fields upright.

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