The Chicago Bears need a lot of help this offseason and one of the first priorities is bound to be the pass rush.
The Bears put less pressure on opposing quarterbacks than any team in the NFL in 2022, registering just 20 sacks on the season. Part of the reason for that were trades that sent edge rushers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn to opposite coasts, but it was all part of a bigger reset that begins this offseason.
Chicago can seek pass rushers via trade, free agency or the draft, though free agency seems the logical place to start with a current open cap number of approximately $93 million, per Over The Cap. One player Bears fans should keep an eye on is New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport, who Jacob Infante of Windy City Gridiron suggested as a prime option for Chicago on January 13.
The price tag may seem steep for Marcus Davenport … [but] he’s a very talented edge rusher and if the Bears want to bring him aboard, they’ll have to pay a premium.
As a 26-year-old defensive lineman with impressive athleticism and a bright future ahead of him, Davenport should have plenty of suitors should he hit free agency this offseason. The Bears didn’t do a good job of generating pressure off the edge this year and if they want an explosive presence along their defensive line, he could be a realistic option for them.
Bears Can Sign Davenport at Value if He Hits Free Agency
The Bears don’t need to do any penny pinching in 2023, but Davenport is the kind of player they could potentially procure at value.
The defensive end just rounded out a four-year deal with the Saints. The team has the option of bringing him back into the fold for one more season at approximately $7.6 million, per Sports Illustrated, though a deal must be struck before a March 14 contract void date.
Spotrac has Davenport’s market value listed at more than $23 million next year and projects a four-year deal should he hit unrestricted free agency by March 15. The numbers suggest the Saints should bring Davenport back another year, if not try and work out a long-term deal now as pass rushing always comes at a premium in the NFL.
The issue is that Davenport’s numbers off the edge plummeted year-over-year in 2022. He recorded just 0.5 sacks in 15 games played, down from a career-high nine sacks in 11 games played in 2021.
If the Bears make a run at Davenport, they can use that dip in production as contract leverage, though only to a degree. Pro Football Focus still ranked Davenport as the 27th best edge defender out of 120 players who qualified at the position last season. He earned a 76.8 overall grade and a 75.0 grade as a pass rusher, while still proving a quality defender against the run (69.7 grade).
“He finished with 33 pressures, 23 quarterback hits and a pressure rate [of] 12.8%,” Infante wrote of Davenport. “He’s a lengthy edge defender who’s a 96th-percentile athlete at the defensive end position.”
It’s hard to say precisely the number at which Chicago could sign Davenport for maximum value, but there’s a decent chance Bears fans find out this offseason should the DE hit unrestricted free agency.
Bears Likely to Add Pass Rusher at Top of 2023 NFL Draft
Adding a player like Davenport at value would put Chicago in an enviable position when it comes to the defensive front, especially considering how everything else has lined up for the Bears this offseason.
The franchise owns its first No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft in 75 years, and it is one of the most coveted top selections in recent memory. The Bears should have more than one opportunity to trade off that pick, move back only a couple of spots and grab a haul in the process.
As long as no move takes Chicago out of the top four, the team should be in great position to draft either edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. out of Alabama or defensive tackle Jalen Carter out of Georgia, both of whom are projected as potentially generational talents at their positions.
Anderson’s numbers as a pass rusher are far more prolific than Carter’s, though pressure is an edge rusher’s primary value where it would be one of several skills of value for Carter playing up the middle.
Whichever player falls to Chicago, he will be on a rookie deal for the next four or five seasons, which is a value even at the top of the first round if he produces at anywhere near full potential. Pairing that player alongside someone like Davenport at value will allow the Bears to pursue a third upgrade on the defensive line, either inside or outside.