Bears Linked to ‘Disruptive’ Ex-Browns Defender: Report

Anthony Walker

Getty Ex-Browns LB Anthony Walker may be on the Bears' radar this offseason.

New Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus is expected to change things up, with one of the most noteworthy adjustments coming on defense.

Eberflus has confirmed the Bears are switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense, which will feature four defensive linemen and three linebackers. The three backers in that scheme consist of a Sam (strong-side) linebacker, a Mike (middle) and Will (weak-side). Roquan Smith should fill the Mike or Will role — Eberflus hasn’t said which.

With veteran backer Danny Trevathan a likely salary cap casualty this offseason, though, the Bears may be looking for someone to fill Trevathan’s shoes. One top insider covering the team named one player specifically to keep an eye on.

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Anthony Walker to the Bears?

In his March 4 column for the Chicago Tribune, team insider Brad Biggs named free agent Anthony Walker as a player to keep an eye on for the Bears.

“He knows the defensive scheme and could be plugged in immediately at middle linebacker, which would allow the Bears to have Roquan Smith at the weak-side position,” Biggs noted.

Walker, who turns 27 in August, has been both durable and productive in his five seasons in the league. A fifth-round pick for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017, he worked with Eberflus from 2018-20 when Eberflus served as his defensive coordinator. He spent his 2021 campaign with the Cleveland Browns on a one-year deal.

“Walker has three-down ability,” a veteran scout told Biggs. “The Cleveland system was pretty zone heavy, which is what he was used to in Indy and he’s got the speed to match an athletic tight end or a slot receiver. He can key and diagnose in the run game. He’s got good second-level range. Not elite, but it’s good, and he can still be a disruptive player.”

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Walker Could Be Bargain Signing

Since entering the league in 2017, Walker has been a reliable presence in the middle of the field. In his four seasons with the Colts, he played in 57 games, starting 48. In that span, he accumulated 343 tackles (229 solo, 19 for loss), three interceptions, six QB hits, 11 passes defensed and 3.5 sacks. In his lone season with the Browns in 2021, Walker amassed 113 total tackles (69 solo, two for loss), two passes defensed, a QB hit and 1.0 sacks.

“What makes Anthony so good is his ability to see things fast and beat guys to the punch,” Eberflus told the Indianapolis Star about Walker back in October of 2020. “He’s able to do that down in, down out, and that’s why he’s been such an effective linebacker for us over the last couple of years.”

Walker should be available at an affordable price, too. Bleacher Report named him the best potential value at linebacker this offseason, and for good reason. He’s coming off a one-year, $3 million deal with Cleveland and PFF has him projected to sign for just $4 million per year in 2022. Considering Trevathan’s cap hit is over $5.7 million, adding a younger player familiar with Eberflus’ scheme seems like a no-brainer for the Bears.

“Eberflus brought four coaches with him from the Colts,” Biggs added. “With spots to fill on all three levels of the defense, it stands to reason he’ll want to bring in a player familiar with the scheme and demands of the staff. Walker’s familiarity with the defense could even allow him to call plays in the huddle. Maybe it’s a move the Bears explore and it probably would be one that wouldn’t cost a ton, certainly not what the team has been paying Danny Trevathan.”

No deal has been done yet, but Walker certainly seems like a top name to watch where the Bears are concerned.

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