Bears Predicted to Reunite Rising Star With Matt Eberflus

Okereke Bears Prediction

Getty The Bears could reunite head coach Matt Eberflus with Colts linebacker Bobby Okereke this offseason.

The Chicago Bears are going to be on the hunt for new weapons that specifically fit head coach Matt Eberflus’ defensive scheme this offseason, and their pursuit could lead them right to a rising star who earned his NFL stripes in Flus’ system.

Indianapolis Colts linebacker Bobby Okereke is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 15, and while he has become one of the AFC South squad’s best defenders over the past four seasons, the Colts’ salary-cap situation — and their desire to acquire a new franchise quarterback — makes it unlikely they will re-sign him for the 2023 season.

If that turns out to be the case for Okereke, Arjun Menon and Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus believe the 26-year-old linebacker’s best landing spot is Chicago.

“Okereke reunites with his former Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator in Bears head coach Matt Eberflus after Chicago balked at former first-round pick linebacker Roquan Smith’s asking price and traded him to the Baltimore Ravens at the trade deadline,” PFF predicted in a February 22 article. “Okereke earned a career-high 79.3 run-defense grade in 2022, with his 31 run-defense stops tying for 13th.”

Okereke Would Fit Seamlessly Into Eberflus’ Scheme

There is a reason why Okereke’s name is regularly featured among top 50s lists for 2023 free agency. The 6-foot-1, 235-pound linebacker has been on the rise since becoming a full-time starter for the Colts in 2021 and is coming off a season in which he and Zaire Franklin absolutely lit things up as a linebacker tandem. Okereke finished 2022 with career-highs in both tackles (151) and tackles for a loss (six) and stood as one of the only bright spots for Indianapolis’ defense in an otherwise ruinous season.

What makes Okereke especially appealing for Chicago, though, is his strong ties — and proven track record — in Eberflus’ system. The Bears coach was Okereke’s defensive coordinator for the first three seasons of his career and had a hand in unlocking his potential as an NFL linebacker. He also knows firsthand that while Okereke has thrived more as a middle linebacker, he is just as capable of playing at the weakside spot.

The scheme — as well as the coaches — are going to be important to Okereke if he reaches free agency, as he mentioned during his interview with Bill Zimmerman of the Bears Banter podcast earlier in February.

“Scheme, and coaches, and just position fit,” Okereke said of needs in free agency. “Where I feel like I’m going to be most comfortable on a football field. Going to a place that really just has a winning culture. That’s what I want to be a part of. I want to be a part of a team that wins and somewhere that’s got an availability for me to come in and lead a defense.”

Based on how players have described the culture shift Eberflus has brought to Chicago over the past year, it sure sounds like the Bears could fit the bill.

Bears Would Benefit From Pairing Okereke With Sanborn

Okereke Bears PFF

GettyThe Bears could be an ideal landing spot for Colts linebacker Bobby Okereke.

Now, there are some people who read about the Bears potentially signing a middle linebacker and worry about what that would mean for rookie standout Jack Sanborn, but signing Okereke could work to his benefit as well in his sophomore outing.

Sanborn did an admirable job stepping up to fill the MIKE role after the Bears traded Roquan Smith at the deadline, notching 59 tackles, five tackles for a loss, two sacks and one fumble recovery over six starts before suffering a season-ending injury in Week 14. More than anything, he showed he had a nose for the ball and the speed to make plays all over the field … which is why he might be better suited for the strongside role.

If Okereke signed with Chicago, the Bears would suddenly find themselves with two promising young linebackers who are each capable of wearing multiple hats for the defense. Add another veteran-minimum ‘backer or a rookie to the mix — maybe both — and that is a much-improved unit that can help pull Chicago’s defense out of the gutters.

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