The Chicago Bears have been busy this offseason checking off to-do items on their personnel wish list, though the crucial position of pass rusher remains largely vacant.
Outside of the signing of former Tennessee Titans defensive end DeMarcus Walker, the Bears have been quiet in free agency. Chicago also selected 10 new players over NFL Draft weekend, though there isn’t an edge rusher among them. The decision not to pursue a pass rusher to this point is a curious one considering the Bears were dead last in the league in 2022 with just 20 sacks on the entire season.
General manager Ryan Poles spoke to media members at the team’s post-draft press conference, during which he addressed his roster’s continued deficiency at one of the game’s premier positions.
“You want to fix everything immediately but it’s got to work the right way. The right players got to be there that fit our scheme. They want to be here. So, we can’t fix everything at a high level in one swoop,” Poles said. “Camp’s a long ways away. We’ll stay on our toes and if something presents itself, we’ll be able to do that. We’ll be able to do it financially as well.”
Bears Can Still Pursue High-Level Edge Rushers in Free Agency
This offseason is unique in that a handful of high quality edge rushers remain available on the free agent market as the calendar flips to May.
One of the more natural fits in Chicago among the list of available names in Yannick Ngakoue, most recently of the Indianapolis Colts. Ngakoue is a one-time Pro Bowler and pass-rushing specialist from the defensive end position. While his game has deficiencies, he’s always been reliable when it comes to disrupting opposing quarterbacks.
Ngakoue has racked up at least eight sacks every season since joining the league in 2016 and has tallied 65 total sacks for his career, per Pro Football Reference. Ngakoue will play next season at the age of 28 and makes sense in Matt Eberflus‘ 4-3 base scheme rushing the passer from a defensive end position.
Jadeveon Clowney Offers Bears Short-Term Solution Off Edge
Another option who might be significantly less expensive is Jadeveon Clowney, most recently of the Cleveland Browns. Clowney played season-to-season in Cleveland, signing one-year contracts in both 2021 and 2022 for $8 million and $10 million, respectively, per Spotrac.
Clowney produced only two sacks in 10 starts and 12 game appearances for the Browns last season, though he was hampered by multiple lingering injuries for much of the campaign. That said, Clowney will play next season at just 30 years old and has hit or topped nine sacks in three different seasons during his career, including in 2021.
If the Bears are looking to bridge the gap to a longer-term answer at the defensive end position, Clowney makes sense as a value play. As of Monday, May 1, Chicago still had nearly $35.8 million in available salary cap space.