Top Five Bargain Free Agents

The Chicago Bears could fill a number of holes on the current roster, while not eating up the team’s cap space, by signing these five low-priced veterans who will soon hit the open market.

Many big names are set to hit the open market on March 10. That’s a good thing for Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace, who should have plenty of cap space with which to work.

Last year, the Bears were “spenders” and came away with top-dollar free agents Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen. Unfortunately for the Bears neither player lived up to his contract, as Houston tore his ACL celebrating his lone sack of the season and Allen struggled to stay consistent.

Over the past few years, players like Willie Young, Matt Slauson and Brian De La Puente have provided great value for a smaller price. This year, the team will need to find more of those same players if they expect to compete. Teams like the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers have shown just how successful drafting well and finding bargains can be in today’s NFL.

With many holes throughout the roster and only six draft picks, Pace will need to fill cap space wisely. Pace’s eye for talent was a big sell as a general manager candidate and now he needs to put it into action. Here are five cost-effective free agents who can help the Bears improve next season.

DT Kenrick Ellis, New York Jets

At 27-years-old, Ellis graded a +1.1 overall mark from Pro Football Focus in just 158 snaps last season. While a name like Broncos hulking NT Terrance Knighton might seem like a sexier pick up, Ellis provides similar size (6-4, 346) and can play the same role.

Ellis is still young, so a deal light on guarantees would be a wise investment if the Jets allow him to test free agency.

Projected Contract: Three years, $6 million ($1.5 million guaranteed)

CB Sterling Moore, Dallas Cowboys

Not particularly a household name, Moore played very well on a surprising defensive unit in Dallas. He has shown good speed and above-average coverage skills. Moore is just 25-years-old and is still somewhat of an unknown, but he’s an ideal investment as a third corner in Chicago.

At 5-10, Moore is physically fit to play in either the slot or on the outside alongside Kyle Fuller. He could start off in nickel packages before ultimately replacing Tim Jennings. With Moore, a two-year deal would be a safe signing.

Projected Contract: Two years, $3 million ($1 million guaranteed)

OLB Akeem Ayers, New England Patriots

Ayers could provide quite the value for a player that was traded in October and played just 424 total snaps in 2014. Still very young at just 25-years-old, new DC Vic Fangio’s scheme may prove to be an ideal fit for the for SAM linebacker.

Ayers tallied four sacks last year but has just 13 in his four-year career. He won’t be a featured pass rusher but his age combined with four years of experience draws many similarities to Willie Young.

Projected Contract: Three years, $9 million ($3 million guaranteed)

SS LaRon Landry, Indianapolis Colts

Landry is coming off a rough year after being suspended four games due to PED use. The sixth overall pick in 2007, Landry played just 500 snaps last year but was serviceable when on the field.

The 30-year-old may not garner much interest in the first few days of free agency but Landry should receive a deal close to Bernard Pollard or James Ihedigbo.

Projected Contract: Two years, $3 million ($750,000 guaranteed)

WR Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders

Regardless of what the Bears decide to do with Brandon Marshall, they are still in need of receiver depth. Moore provides a speed threat at receiver and a much-needed spark in the return game.

At a fresh 26-years-old, Moore had just 115 receiving yards in 2015. He provides good size (6-0, 200) and has untapped potential ideal for Bears OC Adam Gase’s offense. Moore has inconsistent hands at times but his speed and return ability make him an attractive buy-low option.

Moore might be the definition of low-risk, high-reward.

Projected Contract: Two years, $3 million ($1 million guaranteed)

Although Pace’s main objective is to build through the draft, bargain options can help fill out any roster and turn a fringe team into a contender.

There will be many low-risk options available after the first wave of free agency passes but these five open-market players may be the best fit in Chicago.

A few other names to consider are Redskins tight end Niles Paul and last year’s Super Bowl MVP, Seahawks outside linebacker Malcolm Smith.

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Aaron Leming has years of salary cap knowledge and has written for Rant Sports, Bears Draft On Tap, and Cover 32. He is a regular contributor to Bear Report.

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