Dannehy: Four Thoughts Before Free Agency

| March 9th, 2023

Defensive Tackle Market Will Be Interesting.

The market took am initial hit when the Washington Commanders placed the franchise tag on Daron Payne. But a bigger shock came when a warrant was issued for the arrest of Georgia star Jalen Carter. The number of impact guys is dwindling but there are still a lot of interesting names.

  • Javon Hargrave is probably the best player available, but the Bears might not be interested in giving a large contract to a seven-year veteran who just turned 30 years old.
  • Dre’mont Jones – 26 when the next season begins – has been playing in Denver’s 3-4 since coming into the league in 2019 but could thrive switching to a scheme that allows him to shoot the gap every play.
  • Zach Allen, who will also be 26, has been a defensive end in his career, but could benefit from a move inside.
  • Without question the most interesting potential option is Northwestern’s Adetomiwa Adebawore. While the Wildcats moved him around the line of scrimmage, Adebawore showed burst inside at the Senior Bowl and lit up the combine with a 4.49-second 40-yard dash (1.61 10-yard split) and a 37.5-inch vertical, while weighting 282 pounds with arms that are about 34 inches long.

Looking for an Edge.

While the Bears will have a ton of interesting options on the interior of their defensive line, the edge market might not be as strong as once thought.

For starters, the free agent market has very few adequate options. And while Will Anderson is the consensus best player in the draft, the Bears probably won’t be able to draft him if they trade back.

In Matt Eberflus’ time as a defensive coordinator and head coach, his teams have exclusively drafted ends who have weighed at least 250 pounds with at least 33-inch arms and a 35-inch vertical jump. The only defensive ends to jump 35 inches with the aforementioned size and length were Pittsburgh’s Habakkuk Baldonado, Missouri’s Isaiah McGuire, Louisville’s Yaya Diaby and Adebawore, who the Bears could see as a tackle.

The Pro Day circuit will be interesting to watch here. There were a number of players — like Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness — who showed very good all-around athleticism but didn’t jump well. The NFL changed the combine workouts around again this year, so it’s possible that the jumps were impacted by that.

Otherwise, the Bears might be scrambling to revamp their defensive line, especially on the outside.

Goodbye, Aaron.

Aaron Rodgers might be a member of the New York Jets by the time you are reading this.

Could there have been a worse advertisement for darkness retreats than Rodgers coming out of his without a decision on whether he wanted to keep playing football? While he was away, however, the Packers seemed to make their decision. When GM Brian Gutekunst was asked if he wanted Rodgers to be the quarterback for his team next year, he didn’t say yes — which is a definitive no.

Now, Gutekunst isn’t the only cook in Green Bay’s kitchen. Head coach Matt Lafleur and team president Mark Murphy both indicated they wanted Rodgers back. If we’ve learned anything over the last few years, however, it’s that Rodgers is an emotional rollercoaster and a lack of support from the GM almost certainly sent him over the edge.

Early this week there were reports that Rodgers was meeting with the Jets with Green Bay’s permission. The clear indication there is that the Packers and Jets have already agreed on compensation; a trade seems to merely be a formality. By allowing Rodgers to meet with the Jets before a trade becomes official, the Packers are surely hoping the veteran quarterback will adjust his contract so the dead salary cap hit isn’t as drastic.

In any case, there seems to be almost no way Rodgers comes back to the Packers. Of course, he couldn’t beat the Lions in Week 17 at home with the playoffs on the line, so maybe that doesn’t matter that much anyway.

Bears Need to Go All-In.

Poles has made several comments about spending wisely, trying to set the team up for future years and something along the lines of he won’t be rushed. But the team should be building a roster that can contend for a title in 2024. If the Bears really are committed to Justin Fields, they can’t go halfway. They have to take advantage of his rookie contract and field an actual team.

But time actually is a factor here, whether he wants to acknowledge it or not.

Hedging their bet at the quarterback position by ensuring a 2024 first-round pick in a trade is a fine idea, but the Bears shouldn’t prioritize a 2025 first-round pick over a player who can help them more immediately. Stashing picks is fine, but eventually teams need players.

The Bears have to build the rest of their team so that they can tell without a fraction of a doubt if Fields is their quarterback. The truth is, they should’ve done that last year. We learned from the last regime that if they spend too much time with the wrong quarterback, they won’t get enough time with the next one.

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