Three free-agent veteran stars Bears technically refused to sign despite receiving a large sum of money

Just because you have a ton of money doesn’t mean you need to spend it all.

As dissatisfied as Bears fans may be with the organization’s offseason approach thus far, they cannot claim that the team is not spending money. While the Bears entered this month’s free agency with some of the most salary space of any club, they haven’t exactly thrown it at big contracts like many expected. Deals with D’Andre Swift, Kevin Bayrd, and Gerald Everett were completed fast, although all three were for medium money and were not the marquee acquisitions that Bears supporters had been hoping for all winter.

It’s not always a terrible thing, however. Free agents spend a lot of time poorly, and Bears GM Ryan Poles spoke freely to the media during the Owner’s Meetings about how the team is only now free of many of the awful contracts that former GM Ryan Pace put on the books while he was in charge. So, now that the major waves of free agency have passed, here are the three deals the Bears were wise to avoid.

3 free agents Bears were wise to avoid

1. Christian Wilkins, DT, Las Vegas Raiders

Bears 2024 free agency profile: Will Chicago pursue Christian Wilkins?

Deal: four years, $110 million.

The Bears really need defensive line help, so it’s difficult to blame fans for being upset over Wilkins’ departure for Las Vegas. The former Miami star defensive tackle had an apparent breakout season in 2023, recording a career-high ten sacks while appearing in all 17 games. The Bears’ current approach is either “hope Gervon Dexter develops next to Montez Sweat” or “draft a guy and hope he’s immediately an impact player,” so they didn’t have many better options.

Still, at 28, Wilkins had only one season with double-digit sacks (according to Pro Football Focus) and finished his “breakout season” ranked as PFF’s 29th-best defensive tackle. He’s better than what the Bears currently have on the roster, but that’s a lot of money for a 28-year-old defensive lineman who has mostly been a run-stopper thus far. It would have been a fantastic “we’ve arrived” move for the Bears, but not doing so is probably not the worst thing in the world.

2. Jonah Jackson, G, Los Angeles Rams

Jonah Jackson, Rams agree to three-year deal - NBC Sports

 

Deal: three years, $51 million.

Even though the Bears’ offensive line quietly developed into a solid unit last season, there are still some clear areas for improvement. One of those positions is right guard, and Nate Davis is now scheduled to start in Week 1. That is obviously not ideal, and the other options – Ja’Tyre Carter, Ryan Bates, and Larry Borom – aren’t particularly inspirational either. Jackson could have been an interesting man to bring in right away, but he’s coming off one of, if not the worst, seasons of his career: According to PFF, his run-block grade was the lowest it had ever been, and his pass-blocking, while technically improved from the previous year, remained subpar. He also played almost all of his snaps at left guard, and moving Teven Jenkins back to the other side of the line appears to be something the Bears want to avoid in the future. That’s a lot of money for a guard, and Jackson’s market apparently startled some people. Poles has had luck identifying talented linemen in the draft, so going that method makes more sense.

3. Darnell Mooney, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Falcons signing wide receiver Darnell Mooney, per report

Deal: three years, $39 million.

Mooney appears to be a typical case of needing a fresh start somewhere else, and the Bears clearly did not recognize his skill set during his final two years in Chicago. Mooney’s performance dropped following a 1,000-yard sophomore year, thanks in part to the terrible offense that was being run out there week after week. His deal with the Falcons demonstrates that many in the NFL still believe he is a fine player, and moving on makes a lot of sense for both parties.

Mooney will now play in an offense that will not only value him, but will almost certainly be more productive than any other he has ever played in, while the Bears will remodel their passing game with DJ Moore, Keenan Allen, Cole Kmet, and potentially an exceptional wide receiver prospect. It was enjoyable (for the most part), but neither party appears to be upset about parting ways.

 

 

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