In his second offseason with the Chicago Bears, general manager Ryan Poles has plenty of salary cap room to rebuild a roster that ended 3-14 in 2022.
As the new NFL league year approaches, allowing free agents to begin signing new teams, the Tribune will track all Bears arrivals and departures and provide insight into what they mean.
The free agency trading window opened league-wide at 11 am on Monday. Unrestricted free agents can finalize deals when the league’s new year begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Running back David Montgomery signed a three-year contract with the Detroit Lions. ESPN reported.
What it means: After four seasons with the Bears, Montgomery joins their NFC North rival in a deal reportedly worth $18 million with $11 million guaranteed.
The 2019 third-round pick has rushed for 3,609 yards and 26 touchdowns in 60 games for the Bears, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. He also had 155 receptions for 1,240 yards and four touchdowns. His best season was in 2020, when he surpassed 1,000 rushing yards and had a career-high eight touchdowns and 4.3 yards per carry.
Montgomery was a favorite of many during his time at Halas Hall because of his work ethic and character. The Poles said earlier this offseason that they would love to keep the running back in Chicago, but noted that the contract would have to work.
The Bears return Khalil Herbert, who totaled 731 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 2022, his second season in the league. Herbert’s 5.7 yards per carry was the best in the NFL among running backs.
The Bears are signing former Seattle Seahawks running back Travis Homer, a source has confirmed.
What it means: Not long after Montgomery’s deal was announced, news broke that the Bears had agreed to add Homer on a two-year deal that ESPN reported was worth a maximum of $4.5 million.
Homer was a sixth-round pick by the Seahawks in 2019. In his first four years, he rushed for 453 yards on 83 carries and had 52 receptions for 464 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 18 kickoff returns for 444 yards and a touchdown and 26 special teams tackles.
It remains to be seen if the Bears will add another running back to complement Herbert besides Homer, who has value on both special teams and offense.
The Bears are signing former Tennessee Titans defensive back DeMarcus Walker, a league source has confirmed.
What it means: Walker, 28, is a six-year NFL veteran coming off a career season with the Titans in which he had seven sacks, 16 hits at quarterback and 10 tackles for a loss in 17 games. He was a second-round pick for the Denver Broncos in 2017 and played in 36 games for them with five starts, recording 10½ sacks in four seasons. He had two sacks in 13 games with the Houston Texans in 2021.
Walker’s contract is for a three-year, $21 million deal, with $16 million guaranteed, a league source said.
The Bears desperately needed help at defensive end after totaling just 20 sacks in 2022. The Poles traded Khalil Mack last offseason and Robert Quinn midseason and released Al-Quadin Muhammad last month, leaving limited options at the position. Walker joins a group that includes Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson.
Inside linebacker Tremaine Edmunds is joining the Bears on a four-year, $72 million deal, a source confirmed.
What it means: The Bears secured another star player for a defense that needed them, and guaranteed Edmunds $50 million in a four-year deal. The signing is notable after the organization hit an impasse last fall in its negotiations with linebacker Roquan Smith. Smith was traded to the Baltimore Ravens for a second-round pick and later signed a five-year, $100 million extension in Baltimore with $60 million guaranteed.
Edmunds effectively fits in as Smith’s replacement and is the second starting caliber linebacker the Bears have added in free agency after agreeing to a three-year deal with TJ Edwards.
Edmunds, the #16 overall pick in the 2018 Buffalo Bills draft, has made 74 career starts and won’t turn 25 until May. Last season, he had 102 tackles, one sack and one interception. His production was inconsistent throughout his five seasons with the Bills. But when he was at his best, he displayed impressive athleticism. The Bills were in contention to re-sign Edmunds and head coach Sean McDermott sang his praises.
“Watching him mature and grow on and off the field has been a real joy as a coach,” McDermott said at the NFL Combine two weeks ago.
The Bears, however, pushed to make Edmunds an expensive signing in the first wave of free agency and will welcome the linebacker into Matt Eberflus’ system.
The Bears are signing former Tennessee Titans point guard Nate Davis to a three-year deal, a source confirmed.
What it means: Davis’ deal is worth $30 million over three seasons, with $19.25 million guaranteed.
Davis, 26, has started 54 games in four seasons with the Titans, who drafted him in the third round from Charlotte in 2019. He has missed eight games in the last two seasons with COVID-19 and injuries, including ending the 2022 season due to injuries . reserve due to an ankle injury.
The Bears were slated to have left guard Cody Whitehair and right guard Teven Jenkins returning this season, so it will be worth watching to see how the addition of Davis impacts those roles. Jenkins had some success in his transition from tackle to right guard in 2022, but he struggled with injuries throughout the year and started just 11 games. Davis played right guard at Tennessee.
The Bears are signing former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker TJ Edwards, a source said.
What it means: Edwards, who attended Lakes High School in Lake Villa and Wisconsin, returns home to the Chicago area. An undrafted rookie in 2019, Edwards started 47 games and played in 61 for the Eagles over four seasons. He had a career-high 159 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, seven passes defensed, five quarterback hits, and two sacks in 2022.
The Bears are signing Edwards to a three-year, $19.5 million contract with $12 million guaranteed. After trading linebacker Roquan Smith mid-season in 2022, the Bears badly needed a playmaker for the position. They also return linebacker Jack Sanborn, who also played for Wisconsin. Edwards played middle linebacker in Philadelphia and would likely play that position in Chicago as well, although the Bears could also try him in the Will position.
Edwards played for an Eagles defense that ranked among the best in the NFL with just 243.7 yards allowed per game, a drive that propelled the team’s run to the Super Bowl. Edwards had six tackles and one pass defended in a Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Cornerback Josh Blackwell and defensive lineman Andrew Brown are returning, the Bears announced.
What it means: The Bears offered one-year contracts to Blackwell and Brown, who were exclusive free agents.
Blackwell, an undrafted rookie from Duke, was a key special teams player in 2022. He had 23 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He saw time on defense in four games late in the season as injuries depleted the Bears’ secondary.
Brown joined the Bears in November off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad and played in five games. He has appeared in 28 games over the last four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Chargers and Bears.
Long snapper Patrick Scales is returning to the Bears, his agent tweeted.
What it means: Scales, 35, has been with the Bears since 2015 and hasn’t missed a game in the past five seasons. He returns with a specialist team that includes kicker Cairo Santos and punter Trenton Gill.
Scales is the oldest Bears player on a roster the Poles have all but abandoned.
The Bears are bringing back veteran fullback Khari Blasingame on a two-year extension, according to his agency.
What it means: Blasingame joined the Bears on a one-year deal last season. And although he hasn’t received an offensive touch, he remains well regarded within Halas Hall for his intelligence, work ethic and tenacity.
As a blocker, Blasingame contributed to a Bears offense that averaged a league-best 177.3 rushing yards per game, setting a single-season franchise record with 3,014 rushing yards. It will be interesting to see how his role evolves or expands in 2023, as coordinator Luke Getsy continues to shape the scheme around the players he has.
The Bears have significant work to do to stabilize their offense and must work on their backfield plans with David Montgomery in line to hit the open market next week. But Blasingame’s return was a priority. The veteran quarterback spent his first three seasons at Tennessee and will look to play a bigger role with the Bears this season.
The Bears are releasing defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, ESPN reported.
What it means: Muhammad signed a two-year, $8 million deal last spring to join head coach Matt Eberflus in Chicago. Muhammad, who is entering his seventh NFL season, was coming off a career year with the Indianapolis Colts in 2021 in which he had six sacks and 13 hits at quarterback. But he totaled just 21 tackles, one sack, three quarterbacks and a forced fumble in 16 games with the Bears last season.
The Bears were expected to revamp a defensive line that contributed only 20 team sacks. Cutting Muhammad, who will turn 28 in March, saves nearly $4 million in salary cap space and comes with just $500,000 in dead cap space, according to Spotrac.
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