The Chicago Bears are not satisfied with the current roster, at least not enough to keep their eyes from wandering.
“We’re interested in a lot of free agents,” said head coach Matt Eberflus on May 31 via the Bears’ YouTube channel when asked directly about adding a pass rusher to the roster. “We’re interested in a lot of guys, at all positions right now. So we’re just excited about being able to look at those guys, and potentially add as we go through camp and getting closer to the season.”
Bears ‘Interested in a Lot’ of FAs, HC Matt Eberflus Says
Bears Roster Still in Flux
With OTAs underway in Chicago, Eberflus and the staff have only gotten a cursory look at the players in attendance. And, while there are some players – like cornerback Jaylon Johnson – who have not been present, the Bears have known what they need for some time.
And they never really stopped trying to fix the issue.
“I think of my group, and we’ve proven that we’re always investigating options via trade, signing someone that’s still available post-free agency, general manager Ryan Poles said on ESPN 1000 on May 12. “We don’t really stop looking for talent. And so right now, I would just say we’re active, looking around, and maybe something will happen here soon.”
The Bears made 10 selections in the 2023 NFL Draft and came away without an EDGE rusher despite generating a league-low 20 sacks last season.
Improved coverage on the backend and pressure up the middle should help. Chicago also added a pair of tweeners – Rasheem Green and DeMarcus Walker – in free agency. The latter of whom recorded 7.0 sacks last season. But teams will test them on the edges if they don’t address what seems to be a void.
At or near the top of many wishlists for (but, perhaps, not from) the Bears is Yannick Ngakoue. There is also re-tread Leonard Floyd who won a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams after being cut by the previous regime – which drafted him – after the 2020 season.
Trade options include New York Jets pass rusher Carl Lawson as well as Chase Young of the Washington Commanders.
Bears Coach Sheds Light on Jaylon Johnson’s Absence
“We know he’ll be here probably for mandatory minicamp,” Eberflus said of Johnson – one of three projected starters not attending OTAs along with Cody Whitehair and Nate Davis along the offensive line. “Hopefully, next week, potentially. So we’ll see.”
Johnson, 24, is the only one who is going into the final year of his contract.
He is recovering from a broken ring finger. The injury cost him the final three weeks of the regular season but has already declared himself good to go.
“100%, fully back,” Johnson told ABC 30 sports anchor Alec Nolan. “I’m ready to go.”
Bears DBs coach Jon Hoke on his contact with Jaylon Johnson: "He Zooms with the meetings and stuff like that. He texts me almost every other day. He'll ask questions because he watches practice tape."
Will Johnson be at minicamp?
"I think he'll be here sooner than later."
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) May 31, 2023
If it’s not health-related, then finances would seem to be a likely driving factor behind Johnson’s absence from OTAs. At the same time, OTAs are completely voluntary. And Johnson could just be looking to save some wear and tear on his body going into such a critical season for him and the Bears.