Bears Positioned to Land Top-Rated Edge Rusher in 2024

Matt Eberflus, Chicago Bears

Getty Head coach Matt Eberflus of the Chicago Bears speaks to the media during minicamp in June 2023.

The Chicago Bears finished dead last at getting to opposing quarterbacks in 2022, and their offseason moves as of July 1 haven’t made them much better.

But general manager Ryan Poles isn’t sweating it. He has indicated his team’s intentions to add another edge rusher ahead of the 2023 campaign, while also reiterating that the franchise isn’t going to do a deal simply for the sake of signing a player to appease the doubters.

One thing the Bears did extremely well this offseason was land a haul by trading the No. 1 overall pick to the QB-hungry Carolina Panthers. In exchange, one of the several valuable assets the Bears brought back in return was the Panthers’ first-round pick in 2024. Depending on how things play out in Chicago and Carolina this upcoming season, the Bears could end up selecting inside of the top-10 twice in the next NFL Draft.

Dalton Wasserman of Pro Football Focus (PFF) suggested on Thursday, June 29, that the Bears do whatever they can to make a run at Florida State edge rusher Jared Verse with one of those two selections, regardless of where either of them falls.

Jared Verse Appears an Answer to Bears’ Abysmal Edge-Rush Statistics Last Season

Jared Verse, Florida State

GettyEdge rusher Jared Verse #5 of the Florida State Seminoles celebrates with his teammates after a sack during a game against the Syracuse Orange in November 2022.

Wasserman’s argument is simple: Chicago needs a long-term answer at pass rusher and Verse, as of now, is the best-rated prospect the 2024 draft has to offer.

The Bears finished dead last in several defensive metrics in 2022, including overall grade and pass-rush grade. They expended a ton of resources this offseason to alleviate their issues defensively, primarily at linebacker, cornerback and defensive tackle. Edge rusher is now the team’s obvious weakness.

Armed with two first-round picks next year, Carolina’s and their own, the Bears should be in a perfect position to select Jared Verse from Florida State. Verse is currently the top-rated edge rusher on PFF’s 2024 Big Board. He posted an 87.4 pass-rush grade and nine sacks in his first season as a transfer from Albany. Verse is explosive off the edge and likely would have been a first-round pick in the 2023 draft. He’ll be a prime target for Chicago in the quest to fill the team’s biggest roster hole.

The Big Board at PFF ranks Verse the seventh-best prospect overall in the 2024 draft across all positions. To go along with the nine sacks Wasserman mentioned, Verse tallied 48 tackles, including 17 tackles for loss, and recovered a fumble during his first 12 games at Florida State, per Football Reference.

Jared Verse Offers Bears Better Upside, Value Than Current Free Agent Pass Rushers

Jared Verse, Florida State

GettyEdge rusher Jared Verse of the Florida State Seminoles pressures quarterback Chandler Fields of the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns during a game in November 2022.

A player like Verse offers the Bears more upside and longevity at considerably better value than any of the free agent options the team could have pursued, or can still pursue, this summer.

Verse will turn 23 years old in November. Should Chicago ultimately draft him, the franchise can sign the edge phenom to a four-year rookie deal with a team option on a fifth season. Even as a likely top-10 pick, that contract will represent significant annual savings over any feasible free agent pass rusher worth his salt and still available in early July.

The key is patience. Poles has also been criticized for failing to lock down the team’s future at left tackle in an offseason replete with salary cap space and valuable draft picks. However, fifth-rounder Braxton Jones was solid in the role of left tackle as a rookie last year. If he continues on his current trajectory, Chicago may have found a long-term starter at a premium position for the price of less than $4 million total over four years.

Quarterback Justin Fields, who also plays a premium position, is entering the third campaign of his four-year, $18.9 million rookie contract in 2023, on which the Bears also have a fifth-year team option. Adding Verse into that mix at edge rusher, a position that rounds out the three most important in the NFL alongside quarterback and left tackle, puts Chicago in an enviable financial position to build around young stars on value contracts and contend for years to come.

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