Bears Can Fill ‘Key’ Position of Need With Ex-Vikings Starter

Sheldon Richardson

Getty Sheldon Richardson is still available in free agency.

The Chicago Bears chose to let their Pro Bowl defensive tackle, Akiem Hicks, walk during free agency.

To fill the sizable three-technique void left by Hicks, who inked a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Bears signed Justin Jones to a two-year, $12 million contract. As it stands, Angelo Blackson, who started eight games in relief of an injured Hicks last season, is set to back up Jones.

The three-technique DT is a key position in new Bears head coach Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 defense, as he lines up between the guard and tackle, just on the outside of the guard. The 3-tech is responsible for getting off the ball quickly, with the aim of disrupting the offensive line from the B-gap.

Jones should be a capable starter, earning a 57.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus last season. He played 286 pass rush snaps and amassed 2.0 sacks, 18 total pressures, two QB hits and 14 hurries. Blackson finished with 25 total pressures, 3.0 sacks, six QB hits and 16 hurries in 315 pass rush snaps, receiving an overall grade of 50.8 from PFF last year.

Josh Schrock of NBC Sports put together a list of still-available free agents “at key positions of need” for Chicago, and he pitched an intriguing veteran 3-tech who had better stats than both last season.

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Veteran DT Sheldon Richardson Is Still Available

Veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who spent the 2021 season with the Minnesota Vikings is still available in free agency. Richardson, 31, played 57% of Minnesota’s defensive snaps last year, and he appeared in all 17 games, starting seven. He finished with a 62.1 overall grade from PFF, racking up 4.0 sacks, 37 total pressures, 11 QB hits and 22 hurries in 468 snaps.

It was Richardson’s second stint with the Vikings after he started all 16 games for them in 2018. He will be entering his 10th season in the league, and if healthy — and he should be, as he has played in 15 or more games since 2016 — he would make a solid depth addition for Eberflus’ defense.

“Adding another veteran three-technique to lighten Jones’ load wouldn’t be the worst use of money,” Schrock pointed out, before sharing an interesting stat about Richardson’s recent performance against Chicago’s top rival.

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Richardson Is Affordable Veteran Option Bears Should Look Into

“You can never have too much depth on the defensive line, and Richardson is a reliable veteran with experience in the NFC North,” Schrock noted, also throwing out this snippet:

“Richardson had seven pressures and one sack in two games against the Green Bay Packers last season. Could be worth a dive into the free-agent waters.”

Considering the Vikings inked him to a one-year deal worth $3.6 million last year ($3 million guaranteed), Richardson would be an affordable way for the Bears to add a quality pass rusher to their defensive line. If he has continued success against the Cheeseheads, all the better.

A first-round selection for the New York Jets in 2013, Richardson has 33.5 sacks, 64 tackles-for-loss, 105 QB hits and 11 forced fumbles in his nine seasons (stats via Pro Football Reference).

He’s not the player he once was, but he can still wreak a bit of havoc in the backfield, and he’s absolutely someone the Bears should look at before training camp begins on July 26.

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