Mark Zerof/USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears 2016 Free Agency Preview: Value Options

A deeper look at the 2nd-tier NFL free agents - those who won't cost as much as the big-name veterans - the Chicago Bears should be pursuing.

The Chicago Bears currently have $46.5 million in cap space heading into free agency. Filter out $7 million for the draft class and another $3 million of in-season cash. Minus that $10 million, the Bears will be spending roughly $36 million on veteran free agents over the next few weeks. 

GM Ryan Pace has nearly double the cap space he had heading into last year's free-agency period, yet he said he'll still take a measured approach to the veteran market. 

"I don't like to put all our eggs in one basket in free agency," Pace said following the season. "We can be a little more targeted now that we really know our team extremely well. I don't think you're going to see us make one splash free agent signing. I think it's going to be kind of spread out your resources a little bit."

Based on his approach to free agency last off-season, as well as his recent comments, don't expect Pace go hot and heavy on the first day of free agency, when the monstrous contracts are typically doled out. Instead, expect him to wait out the early rush and weather the storm, then pounce on a number of second-tier value veterans. 

With that in mind, here are 14 potential future Bears who can positively impact the team without breaking the bank. 

Defense

S Rashad Johnson, Cardinals (5-11, 204) Age: 30
Johnson was outstanding in coverage last season. He's not a great tackler in run support but he brings some pop when has a ball carrier lined up. His ability to man up on opposing tight ends would be a big boost for Chicago's secondary. 
Price Tag: $3M per season

S Rodney McLeod, Rams (5-10, 195) Age: 26
McLeod is a solid all-around safety who started the past three years for the Rams. He's experienced and only 26, thus fitting the Bears' youth movement. He has great range in centerfield, which would complement Adrian Amos well. 
Price Tag: $4M per season

CB Patrick Robinson, Chargers (5-11, 191) Age: 28
Robinson is a former first-round draft pick who fizzled in New Orleans but was outstanding on a one-year deal for the Chargers last year. A good coverage corner on the rise, Robinson makes a lot of sense as a starting option for the Bears.
Price Tag: $2.5M-$3M per season

ILB Vincent Rey, Bengals (6-0, 255) Age: 28
Rey isn't a spectacular player but he's decent in every phase of the game. He's physical and plays downhill, which is the type of player Chicago's defense has lacked since Brian Urlacher was booted out the door. Rey had 121 tackles in 13 starts in 2014.
Price Tag: $3.5M-$4M per season

ILB Zach Brown, Titans (6-1, 248) Age: 26
Brown struggled in Tennessee, particularly against the run, but he's very good in coverage. At 26, he can get better against the run, especially once he's out of NFL purgatory. He's cheap, young and still has upside. 
Price Tag: $1.5M per season

DE Cedric Thornton, Eagles (6-4, 309) Age: 28
Thornton offers nothing as a pass rusher but he's one of the best 3-4 5-technique run stoppers in the NFL. He can eat up linemen and then make plays in the backfield. He'd instantly upgrade Chicago's run defense. 
Price Tag: $2.5M per season

NT Ian Williams, 49ers (6-1, 305) Age: 27
When healthy, Williams is a very good run-stopping nose tackle, although injuries have bothered him for most of his career. He played for three seasons under Bears coordinator Vic Fangio in San Francisco.
Price Tag: $2M per season

Offense

RB Lance Dunbar, Cowboys (5-8, 195) Age: 26
Dunbar had 21 receptions through three games last year before tearing his ACL and MCL. If he can get healthy by the start of the 2016 campaign, he'd be an ideal third-down complement to Jeremy Langford.
Projected: $1M per season

RB LaGarrette Blount, Patriots (6-0, 250) Age: 29
Blount is a beast in short-yardage situations, an area in which Chicago's offense has struggled for years. He's only 29 and won't cost more than the veteran minimum. 
Price Tag: $900,000 per season

TE Jared Cook, Rams (6-5, 254) Age: 29
Cook has averaged 577 yards per season the past four years despite having horrible quarterbacks each year. He played under Dowell Loggains when Loggains was Tennesse's OC in 2012. He's not an ideal option but Cook was once considered a top-flight pass-catching NFL tight end. 
Price Tag: $2.5M-$3M per season

OT Kelvin Beachum, Steelers (6-3, 303) Age: 27
Beachum is one of the better left tackles in the league and is just about to enter his prime. Yet he'll be a relative bargain coming off a torn ACL. With the right incentive-based deal, Beachum could end up being a long-term bargain.
Price Tag: $5M-$6M per season

G Michael Harris, Vikings (6-4, 338) Age: 27
Harris is a wide-bodied mauler who could lead the run game at right guard and, at just 27, he still has time to improve in pass protection.
Price Tag: $2M-$3M per season

C Stefen Wisniewski, Jaguars (6-3, 305) Age: 25
The Bears shouldn't feel comfortable with Hroniss Grasu at center, which is why Wisniewski is worth pursuing. He's stout in pass protection and functional as a run blocker. He'd be a stabilizing presence at the pivot.
Price Tag: $4M-$5M per season


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