NFL

Five moves Bears should make in offseason, free agency: Give Justin Fields an elite weapon in Amari Cooper

For the first time since the 2017 season, the Chicago Bears were under .500 for the year. While the 6-11 campaign had them on the outside looking of the playoffs and finish third in the NFC North, there is room for optimism heading into the future. Why? Because the team was aggressive at the 2021 NFL Draft and traded up for quarterback Justin Fields, who showed flashes during his rookie season that suggest he could be the long-term answer under center. Now, it’s about the organization building around him to create a sustainable winner for years to come and that begins this offseason. 

Over the next few months, Chicago will be retooling its roster for the 2022 season in hopes of getting back above .500 as they continue to develop Fields. They’ll be doing so under a new regime as the club hired Ryan Poles to be its new GM and Matt Eberflus as the franchise’s 17th head coach earlier this offseason. 

Below, we’ve highlighted five moves (in no particular order) the club should look into as they look to build upon its foundation heading into next season. 

With Fields solidified as the Bears starting quarterback, there’s no need to have Foles on the roster at this point, especially now that the team can create some cap relief by moving on from him. Chicago can clear $3 million if they released Foles and could even look to gain some assets if a team somewhere in the league is interested in trading for him. One possible team that could be in the QB market this offseason is the Colts where Foles’ former offensive coordinator with the Eagles Frank Reich is currently the head coach. Not only does getting rid of Foles make sense financially, it would them open the Bears up to finding a backup quarterback that better mirrors Fields’s skillset, so the offense can stay relatively the same if the young quarterback were ever to miss time. 

Hicks has been a staple in Chicago’s defense dating back to when he signed with the team back in 2016. While the 32-year-old doesn’t exactly fit the timeline of where the Bears are at in this rebuild, he is still a strong piece along the defensive line that totaled 3.5 sacks and 11 pressures in just nine games played in 2021. Hicks has expressed a desire to remain in Chicago, but he will likely see a solid market from contenders looking for a piece to help put them over the top. Health has been an issue for him over the last few seasons, however, as he played less than 10 games in two of the last three years. That could bring his market down some and if he’s willing to give a hometown discount to finish his career with the Bears, the club should be open to that situation. 

One of the biggest things on Chicago’s to-do list is to solidify the offensive line and keep Justin Fields upright as he enters his sophomore season. The club does have a hole at center and Ryan Jensen, formerly of the Buccaneers, is projected to be the top player at the position this offseason. According to Spotrac, the Bears are expected to have roughly $25 million in available cap space this offseason. While this may not be the splashiest way to spend some of that money, Jensen produced strong numbers as a run blocker and was efficient in passing sets as well. That type of protection upfront could go a long way in helping Fields develop over the next few seasons. 

Speaking of the offensive line, retaining James Daniels should be a priority for the Bears as he is set to hit free agency. The former second-round pick has been a solid contributor along Chicago’s offensive line during his tenure and was able to play all 17 games in 2021 after suffering a torn pectoral that cut his 2020 campaign to just five games. While he’s primarily slotted as the club’s right guard, Daniels has shown the ability to move around the interior and play center at times, highlighting his versatility. At just 24-year-old, this is someone the Bears should look to build with. 

Allen Robinson’s time with the Bears appears to be nearing its end, which creates a need for an impact receiver. With the Dallas Cowboys reportedly set to release Amari Cooper, the wideout would be an ideal replacement for Robinson and should prove to be a strong go-to option for Fields. Cooper is a crisp route-runner and is coming off a 2021 season where he caught 68 balls for 865 yards and eight touchdowns in what was a crowded pass-catching group in Dallas. Of course, Cooper won’t come cheap, so the Bears may need to create more cap space to fit him under the salary cap while also making other necessary moves, but bringing in a four-time Pro Bowl receiver that is still only 27 would be a fascinating addition. 



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