The Chicago Bears have $63.8M in cap space tied up in offensive players but just $32.8M invested in the defense. As such, expect the Bears to devote a significant chunk of their $46M in cap space to defensive players in free agency.
With that in mind, here are my top three players the Bears should target, one at each level of the defense - players who will bring the most bang for their buck and impact the defense immediately.
ILB Danny Trevathan, Broncos
I've been on the Trevathan bandwagon since before the Super Bowl, when he led Denver's elite defense to a championship. The 26-year-old is arguably the top inside linebacker in a weak market for the position and he plays the Bears' biggest position of need. He's plays at a high level in every phase of the game and has experience in a 3-4 system similar to that which is run in Chicago.
In addition, Trevathan was drafted by current Bears head coach John Fox and played three seasons under him in Denver. Trevathan is the ideal fit for the Bears and has already expressed interest in coming to Chicago. He'll cost roughly $6 million per seaoson - or slightly more due to the weak market - and he'd be money well spent. Trevathan is a young, foundation piece around whom the defense can build going forward.
DE Jaye Howard, Chiefs
Howard was banged up his first two years in the NFL but emerged for the Chiefs as a starter the past two seasons. In 2015, he had 5.5 sacks and showed serious pass-rushing prowess. He's 6-3, 301 and plays the run about as well as he collapses the pocket.
The 27-year-old is an underrated 5-technique with 3-4 experience. Howard could start for the Bears on Day 1 and provide an added element to the pass rush with his ability to collapse the pocket in the face of opposing quarterbacks. He won't cost as much as Denver's Malik Jackson but Howard will likely produce at a similar level.
CB Sean Smith, Chiefs
Chicago's secondary tallied just 4 total interceptions last season. That's unacceptable, which is why Smith should be a top target for GM Ryan Pace. At 6-3, 218 pounds, Smith has the size the Bears are searching for in a No. 1 corner, with requisite physicality in bump-and-run coverage.
Smith is an aggressive boundary corner with very good length and valuable experience. At 29 years old, his upside is far greater than that of Tracy Porter, which is why Smith would be money well spent.