Bears Can Address Biggest Roster Hole Via Reunion With $10.5 Million Specialist

Matt Eberflus, Yannick Ngakoue

Getty Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.

For all of the work the Chicago Bears have done rebuilding the roster over the past two years, there still remains at least one significant hole at a premiere position.

The Bears produced the fewest sacks in the NFL two seasons past with just 20 total. That number increased to 30 sacks last year, in large part due to the addition of defensive end Montez Sweat ahead of the trade deadline. However, it was still the second-worst mark across the league.

General manager Ryan Poles wasted little time locking Sweat up by way of a four-year, $98 million extension. But the position of edge rusher opposite Sweat remains arguably the biggest deficiency on the Bears’ entire roster.

Derrik Klassen of Bleacher Report laid out Chicago’s defensive line situation on June 13 and suggested a handful of names who the team might pursue via trade or free agency, including a reunion with Yannick Ngakoue.

If the Bears want to make a more serious push, Sweat cannot be a one-man army on the edge. Having a player of his caliber goes a long way, but nobody else on the roster is either a plus starter or an exciting young prospect.

DeMarcus Walker and Jacob Martin are fine rotational pieces, and maybe fifth-round rookie Austin Booker will bring some juice, but that’s not an inspiring group for a defense that aspires to win double-digit games.

The Bears are left with a crop of free agents who are not going to take over games, but they may still be better than what they have on the roster at the moment. … The Bears just need a body to take some pressure off of Sweat and help keep the rotation fresh.

Yannick Ngakoue Underwhelming for Bears in 2023, Remains Serviceable Option Opposite Montez Sweat

Yannick Ngakoue

GettyDefensive end Yannick Ngakoue of the Chicago Bears.

Ngakoue is less of a fully-rounded defensive end and more of a pass-rush specialist, which has been his role throughout his eight-year career that has included stints with six teams.

The Bears brought Ngakoue into the fold late last summer, signing the journeyman edge rusher to a one-year deal worth $10.5 million total in early August. Unfortunately for Chicago, the normally reliable Ngakoue tallied a career-low 4 sacks in just 13 games played due to a season cut short by a broken ankle.

Prior to 2023, the defensive end had never put up fewer than 8 sacks in a campaign and has 69 sacks over the entirety of his NFL tenure, per Pro Football Reference. Ngakoue will play next season at only 29 years old, is familiar with the Bears’ defensive system and has a history with head coach Matt Eberflus prior to Chicago when the two worked together as members of the Indianapolis Colts organization in 2022.

While Ngakoue probably isn’t a long-term answer, or even capable of making a massive splash off the edge for the Bears this season, he remains a serviceable option and makes considerable sense as stop-gap solution until Chicago can draft, sign or trade for a more explosive pass rusher.

Bears Could Also Look to Emmanuel Ogbah to Add Depth, Skill to Defensive End Position

Emmanuel Ogbah

GettyDefensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, formerly of the Miami Dolphins.

Two other names Klassen mentioned as options for the Bears on the edge are Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Lawson.

Ogbah spent the last four seasons with the Miami Dolphins, where he put up 24.5 sacks across 57 games played. More than one analyst has floated Ogbah as potentially a good fit with the Bears, though also as more of a short-term solution rather than a long-term partner for Sweat.

“Ogbah is probably best spotted in a situational role at this point of his career, but the Bears need bodies in their edge rotation,” Bill Barnwell of ESPN wrote on May 14. “Getting 300 snaps of solid pass-rushing performance from Ogbah for $2 million or so would be a good deal for GM Ryan Poles.”

Lawson spent the last two years with the New York Jets, tallying 7 sacks in 2022. However, he put up zero last season in just six games played and has struggled with injury issues during his professional career.

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