Bears Sign Veteran Defensive End With 18 Sacks to 1-Year Contract

Jacob Martin Chicago Bears News NFL Free Agency Edge Rusher

Getty New Bears defensive end Jacob Martin.

The Chicago Bears are finally making a move to bolster their pass rusher for the 2024 season, signing veteran defensive end Jacob Martin to a one-year deal.

Martin is a 28-year-old pass rusher with 18 career sacks to his name despite primarily working as a rotational piece for much of his six-season career. He started 14 games for the Houston Texans in 2021, finishing with career-high marks in sacks (four), tackles for loss (five), total tackles (23), forced fumbles (two) and pass deflections (three).

While Martin played a backup role for the Indianapolis Colts, he heads to the Bears with 85 tackles, 18 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles in his career. The Bears officially announced Martin’s signing on Saturday, March 16.

Martin is a depth addition for the Bears, but he could be a key part of the rotation in 2024 depending on how the team builds up the roster of its defensive trenches. They have Montez Sweat in place as their top pass rusher and could add a high-end rookie to complement him in the 2024 NFL draft, but Martin should compete with DeMarcus Walker and Dominique Robinson — if he remains on the roster — in training camp.

The Bears have now signed nine free agents to deals since the start of the 2024 league year on March 13, but Martin is their first signing for their defensive line.

Keenan Allen Trade Could Mean EDGE for No. 9 Pick

The Bears are all but certain to take a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft after trading Justin Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday. They may have also tipped off their plans for their other first-rounder — No. 9 overall — after making a blockbuster deal to acquire six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen on March 14.

The Bears now have a fearsome receiver tandem in place between Allen and superstar DJ Moore, but their bold play for Allen could indicate they are less interested in trying to target one of the top receivers in the 2024 draft class with their ninth overall pick. If that is the case, then it would make a lot of sense for the Bears to pursue one of the top pass rushers with the No. 9 pick and find a dynamic and affordable partner for Sweat.

Alabama’s Dallas Turner could be an ideal match for them with elite pass-rushing traits and high-end speed that would pair nicely with Sweat’s skill set. Turner clocked a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the 2024 NFL Combine and notched 10 sacks in 2023, taking full advantage of his opportunity to replace Will Anderson Jr. for the Crimson Tide.

There is also quite a bit to like about Florida State’s Jared Verse and UCLA’s Laiatu Latu. Latu missed two seasons with a 2020 neck injury that could raise concerns among NFL scouts, so the Bears might be hesitant to take him, but Verse is perhaps the most well-rounded pass rusher in the class. Any of the three would be a prize at No. 9.

Bears Could Still Trade Down From No. 9 & Land DE

The Bears’ decision to acquire Allen might make them prioritize an edge rusher over a wide receiver in the first round of the 2024 draft, but that does not necessarily mean they are staying at No. 9 in the draft order.

The Bears have just four total picks in the 2024 draft after trading a fourth-rounder for Allen and a fifth-rounder for interior lineman Ryan Bates. They traded their second-round pick for  Sweat at last year’s NFL trade deadline and, before that, dealt their sixth- (Dan Feeney) and seventh-rounders (N’Keal Harry) for other players. They also did not get back a 2024 selection in exchange for Fields, as many expected.

If the Bears are unhappy with their situation, they could look to move back from No. 9 to gain additional draft capital, especially if most of the edge rushers are still available. Teams interested in acquiring a new quarterback — the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings — might be eager to move up if Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy remains on the board after the first eight picks. The Bears can exploit that and still get a high-end pass rusher.

The Bears might be able to move back and still land one of the previously mentioned three pass rushers, but Penn State’s Chop Robinson or Missouri’s Darius Robinson are enticing options if they slide too deep and miss out on the top three talents in the class.

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