Chicago Bears Free Agency Predictions 2024: Bears Retain Jaylon Johnson, Sign Danielle Hunter, and Add a Center

Chicago has the cap space to run wild during the 2024 offseason. Here are three Bears free agency predictions for how GM Ryan Poles will fortify his roster.

With nearly $80 million in cap space and two first-round picks (including the No. 1 overall selection) in the upcoming draft, the Chicago Bears can remake their roster this offseason. While the draft will allow general manager Ryan Poles to add young players to Chicago’s depth chart, free agency will let the Bears bring in experienced talent.

Which moves will the Bears consider in the coming weeks? Here are three paths Chicago could pursue.

Chicago Bears Free Agency Predictions

The Bears were active during last year’s free agent period, signing guard Nate Davis, linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and TJ Edwards, and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, among others. Chicago showed improvement over the back half of the 2023 campaign but still has work to do heading into next season.

Keep CB Jaylon Johnson on the Franchise Tag

No NFL cornerback has been franchise-tagged since 2017 when the Los Angeles Rams franchised Trumaine Johnson for the second straight offseason. This year, Bears CB Jaylon Johnson and Kansas City Chiefs CB L’Jarius Sneed look like obvious candidates for the tender.

Speaking to reporters this week, Poles said “conversations are going well” with Johnson and his representation, adding that the Bears have an offer on the table for the former second-round pick.

“Cash flows are strong. Guarantees are strong. The term is ‘strong’ for him,” Poles said Tuesday at the NFL Combine. “At his age, there’s a really good opportunity for him to go back to the market again and continue to earn money and play well — and hopefully, that’s with the Bears for a long period of time.”

A franchise tag would pay Johnson a fully guaranteed $19.802 million in 2024. While Johnson would become the NFL’s fourth-highest-paid CB on an annual basis, he wouldn’t collect the sort of Year 1 cash flow available on a long-term extension.

Johnson, 24, was outstanding last season, setting career bests in completion rate (55.2%), yards per target (4.8), and yards per completion (8.7). He allowed just a 33.3 passer rating as the nearest defender in coverage, the best mark in the NFL.

Add Danielle Hunter to Pass-Rushing Plan

Chicago buoyed its pass-rushing corps at the 2023 NFL trade deadline by sending a second-round pick to the Washington Commanders in exchange for Montez Sweat, who posted six sacks and 14 QB hits in nine games with the Bears while inking a four-year, $98 million extension.

But Matt Eberflus’ defensive line needs more reinforcements. Chicago managed a pass pressure on only 31.2% of opponents’ dropbacks, the second-worst rate in the league, per TruMedia. The Bears’ blitz rate ranked 21st in the NFL, suggesting Eberflus prefers to get after quarterbacks with his front four.

While Chicago could consider an edge rusher in the draft, this year’s crop of available defensive ends is not regarded as strong. Instead, the Bears could be eyeing a wideout or offensive lineman with their second first-round pick (No. 9).

Let’s send a veteran to the Windy City. Danielle Hunter is already intimately familiar with the NFC North after spending eight years with the Minnesota Vikings and figures to get paid after posting a career-high 16.5 sacks in 2023.

Although Hunter has injury concerns, he played all 17 games in each of the past two seasons. And despite his lengthy NFL career, Hunter is not yet 30 years old. A three-year, $65 million deal could make sense for the Bears as they revamp their defensive front.

Sign a Veteran Center

The Bears are expected to select USC QB Caleb Williams with the top overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. With an inexperienced option handling the ball, Chicago may want to find a center with a track record of making pass-protection calls.

Lloyd Cushenberry handled that responsibility from Day 1 with the Denver Broncos and showed improvement over four seasons despite working with multiple coaching staffs. He’s still only 26 years old and would represent a marked improvement over incumbent Lucas Patrick (also a pending free agent).

KEEP READING: Bears 2024 Free Agents

With young, cheap starters like left tackle Braxton Jones, left guard Teven Jenkins, and right tackle Darnell Wright still on their rookie contracts, the Bears can afford to add a veteran option like Cushenberry. Chicago is currently spending just $28.5 million on its 2024 offensive line, the sixth-lowest total in the NFL, per Over the Cap.

Miss football? The 2024 NFL Draft is almost here, boss. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls!

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