Indianapolis Colts All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is still putting up elite numbers in Year No. 7.
In 255 pass rush snaps and nine games this season, Buckner has 28 total pressures, 16 hurries, seven quarterback hits, and 5.0 sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. The 28-year-old defensive tackle has been the best player on either side of the ball for a 3-5-1 Colts team that just fired its head coach (Frank Reich) and appears headed toward a significant rebuild next year.
Considering his ties to current Bears head coach Matt Eberflus, who served as his defensive coordinator in Indianapolis from 2018 until 2021, Buckner makes perfect sense as a top target for Chicago next offseason.
Bears Should Call Colts About DeForest Buckner Next Offseason
Veteran quarterback Matt Ryan ($19.2 million base salary) is set to make more money than anyone else on the Colts’ roster in 2023, but he was benched earlier this season in favor of 2021 sixth-rounder Sam Ehlinger, so Ryan will likely be on the chopping block in 2023.
After Ryan, Buckner’s $18.25 million base salary is second-highest, and while it’s unlikely Indy would want to part ways with its top pass rusher, it would certainly be worth an inquisition or two from Bears general manager Ryan Poles.
As Jacob Infante of Windy City Gridiron noted, it ‘makes too much sense” for Chicago to ask about Buckner considering his connection to Eberflus coupled with the team’s current needs on the D-line.
The Colts have just over $26 million in cap space next year, per Spotrac, so cuts and/or trades will surely be made. The Bears have to at least try to see if the Colts might be interested in letting the 6-foot-7, 295-pound defensive lineman go.
How Much Would Chicago Bears Have to Pay for DeForest Buckner?
Shortly after trading their 13th overall pick for Buckner in March of 2020, the Colts inked him to a four-year, $84 million contract extension, and they did it when Eberflus was their defensive coordinator.
Per Over the Cap, Buckner has cap hits of $19.75 million in 2024 and just over $20 million in 2024. The Bears are set to have over $125 million in cap space next year, so they could easily afford him, and finding players to harass the quarterback will likely be a top priority for Poles and company.
Buckner spent two years in Eberflus’s system, and the current Bears coach had nothing but good things to say about him over their time together.
“This guy is an impact player, and he plays at a high level and he certainly affects the football in positive way up front,” Eberflus told the Colts official website in 2020 shortly after the acquisition of Buckner, also admitting he advocated for adding Buckner via trade.
“The way he practices raises everybody’s level, and his leadership is just that; people lead by example and lead by doing, and he certainly does that in practice,” Eberflus added.
Since entering the league as the seventh overall pick out of Oregon for the San Francisco 49ers in 2016, Buckner has not missed more than one game during any of his seven seasons. Durable and effective pass rushers like him don’t grow on trees, and the Bears should not overpay, but major changes appear to be on the horizon in Indy. Poles should at least pick up the phone and ask whether Buckner can be moved.