Former $45 Million Edge Rusher Floated as FA Option for Bears

Getty New York Jets edge rusher Carl Lawson.

The Chicago Bears are short at least one rotational pass rusher heading into the summer, and the options are relatively limited.

Greg Gabriel of SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron combed through the remaining ranks in the free-agent market on Saturday, May 11, and came up with a couple of names: Carl Lawson, formerly of the New York Jets, and Emmanuel Ogbah, formerly of the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns.

Gabriel noted that Ogbah is probably the better fit based on the type of length the Bears typically look for in a defensive end, though there is a case to be made for Lawson as well.

“Carl Lawson is an interesting name, if only because he is younger (29) and has had 27 career sacks. The negative part is that he doesn’t fit the size and length criteria the Bears look for in a defensive end,” Gabriel wrote. “The Bears crave length with their defensive linemen and Lawson doesn’t have that trait. The other negative is Lawson is more of a designated pass rusher than an every-down defensive end. Being that is what Austin Booker is right now, does Lawson fit what the Bears need?”

Carl Lawson Isn’t Ideal Option for Bears, Could Make Sense on Short-Term Contract

Carl Lawson, Jets

GettyFormer New York Jets pass rusher Carl Lawson.

Lawson — who is 6-feet, 2-inches tall and weighs 265 pounds — played the first four years of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals as a fourth-round pick out of Auburn. He signed a three-year deal worth $45 million to join the Jets in March 2021 after amassing 20 sacks across 51 games in Cincinnati.

He tore his Achilles tendon in August of that year and missed the entire campaign. Lawson then produced 7 sacks for the Jets in 2022. However, he appeared in just six games last season and registered zero sacks.

Given Lawson’s injury problems, his limited skill set and his less-than-ideal length, he doesn’t make for an excellent candidate to join a Bears defense that was among the best in the NFL coming down the stretch of last season.

That said, Chicago has more of a traditional defensive end in DeMarcus Walker who can start alongside Pro Bowler Montez Sweat. Booker is a rookie project, and the Bears can likely procure Lawson on a short-term, team-friendly contract to add some pass-rushing depth as a bridge to a better solution a year from now should nothing else materialize in free agency.

Bears’ Best Bet May Be Reunion With DE Yannick Ngakoue in 2024

Yannick Ngakoue

GettyDefensive end Yannick Ngakoue, formerly of the Chicago Bears.

The move that makes perhaps the most sense is for the Bears simply to run it back on another one-year deal with Yannick Ngakoue, who the team signed late last offseason to fill the edge-rushing gap in 2023.

Ngakoue had the least productive season of his career, which injury cut short by four games, with 6 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. A Pro Bowler in 2017, Ngakoue had never finished any of his seven previous NFL seasons with fewer than 8 sacks, per Pro Football Reference.

Chicago inked Ngakoue to a $10.5 million contract last time around, though the 29-year-old defensive end will probably come cheaper in 2024. He’s also familiar with the Bears’ scheme, having played in it last year and having been a part of Matt Eberflus‘ defense with the Indianapolis Colts in 2022, when Ngakoue tallied 16 QB hits and 9.5 sacks.

Read More