The NFL is almost two weeks into free agency and the top end of the market has already come and gone.
The Chicago Bears and general manager Ryan Pace have done a great job of filling holes but after committing to a complete overhaul of the roster, which started last off-season, Pace knows their still multiple holes to fill.
After the opening wave of free agency, the market settles out and asking prices begin to plummet. The longer a team waits, the better the value becomes.
The Bears have signed four outside free agents so far, all to four-year deals, but can still find good value with the remaining crop of veterans.
S Tony Jefferson (Restricted Free Agent)
With the team having already attacked three defensive soft spots, they could easily address another one at safety with Jefferson—a former undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma.
It’s worth noting that he received a “low-round tender”, which means the Arizona Cardinals have the right to match any offer made to Jefferson but would not receive compensation if they decide not to much.
The 24 year old tallied 78 tackles and two interceptions in 16 total games last season, with seven starts.
As of this weekend, the Cardinals have a touch under $10 million in cap space, so a lucrative offer from the Bears could ultimately force the team’s hand.
CB Patrick Robinson
A former first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2010, Robinson’s career can be characterized as inconsistent.
The 28 year old is coming off of a nice bounce-back season with the injury riddled San Diego Chargers and is looking for a similar payday to Casey Hayward.
Robinson was rated as Pro Football Focus’ 30th-best corner last season. It was also reported at the start of free agency that the Bears were one of multiple teams to show interest in him, but nothing has materialized since.
With consistency issues and average size, Robinson will be lucky to land anything more than a prove-it deal at this point and if the price goes down enough, Pace may pounce.
TE Jared Cook
Just three years ago, Cook was regarded as the top free agent tight end, even over recently departed Martellus Bennett. Yet Cook failed to impress during his time with the Los Angeles Rams.
He is coming off a rough season in which the Rams quarterbacks struggled, yet he was still able to put up 39 receptions for 481 yards but no touchdowns, which is somewhat alarming, especially for a tight end.
The soon-to-be 29-year-old still has a somewhat high ceiling and could provide good value on a cheap short-term deal.
Also worth noting, Cook spent time in Tennessee with new Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.
C/OG Stefen Wisniewski
Yet another former high-round pick has found the list. This time, it’s Wisniewsk, who has struggled to find consistency the past few years.
The Bears spent a third-round pick on Hroniss Grasu last year but the team would be wise to bring in an insurance policy, in case Grasu falters.
Wisniewski ranked 19th in PFF’s center grades but has the ability to move to either guard spot as well. He could provide much-needed depth at three interior positions and is still relatively young at 27 years old.
CB Brandon Boykin
Once regarded as a rising nickelback, Boykin struggled to find a home with the Pittsburgh Steelers and remains on the market.
Boykin is a bit on the small side but still has high upside inside covering the slot. He does not fit defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s typical profile at the position but it’s worth noting that Bryce Callahan has similar size with a smaller upside.
Each day that passes, Boykin becomes even more of a bargain. He could provide the Bears a big depth boost with the upside of a contributing starter from Day 1.
DL Nick Fairley
A former Detroit Lion, Fairley will likely be with his third team in as many years. Once viewed as a high-upside starter, he hasn’t made a start since 2014 and has seen his sack numbers fall off drastically over the past two seasons.
At just 28-years-old, he could provide depth and allow Pace to focus on other needs in the draft. Fairley’s scheme fit is questionable but he has the size and athleticism to transcend schemes.
OG Louis Vasquez
On the opening day off free agency, the Bears added right tackle Bobby Massie, which allowed All-Pro caliber lineman Kyle Long to move back inside to guard, where he belongs. Matt Slauson stands as the team’s left guard but can also play center.
Vasquez is still young and was recently cut from the Denver Broncos. He was a much better fit in Dave Magazu’s blocking scheme - Magazu was Denver's offensive line coach from 2011-2014.
For the right price, Vasquez is worth a look, even as depth.
OLB Courtney Upshaw
Another big-bodied outside linebacker from the Baltimore Ravens, Upshaw is stout against the run but does not offer much in terms of pass rush.
Upshaw has had a shortage of suitors so far, which was to be expected with his inability to get after the quarterback. He is a former teammate of Pernell McPhee and could be an upgrade over Sam Acho, who also lacks an effective pass-rush arsenal.
OLB Mike Neal
The Gary, Indiana native was highly sought after by the Bears two seasons ago when he was last a free agent.
Neal is nothing special but he provides a solid pass rush and could play three downs in a pinch. He could provide nice depth and is still under the age of 30. In addition, it would be taking a solid contributor away from their division rival Green Bay Packers.
Averaging 4.5 sacks per year over his last three seasons should allow Neal to land a two-year deal in a league always looking for players who can get to the quarterback.
DB Walter Thurmond
Thurmond is an interesting player to keep an eye on. He excelled in a great Seattle Seahawks defensive system and made the move to safety last year for the Philadelphia Eagles.
At 29 years old and coming off a nice year, rumors have been swirling that he is considering retirement.
If he does decide to play another few seasons, he would be worth a look as a playmaking safety with good coverage skills.
Honorable mentions: CB Jerraud Powers, DL Terrance Knighton, DL Jared Crick.null