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Free agent targets for the Chicago Bears following final cuts

With final cuts in the books, we highlight the new free agents the Chicago Bears should target to fill positions of serious need.

The final cutdown period for the NFL has come and gone and with that leaves multiple players without teams. The cut down from 90 players to 53 is never an easy process but it does afford clubs to fill holes with other team’s cut casualties.

The Chicago Bears are one of those clubs. With multiple holes and depth concerns, GM Ryan Pace will surely be scouring the free agency to fortify the roster heading into Week 1.

There are plenty of names out there, many of whom could be potential upgrades at positions of need.

Return Specialist

Marc Mariani was cut earlier today and Omar Bolden was released last month. As of now, Eddie Royal is the team’s only option as a punt returner.

- RB/WR Dexter McCluster

The Bears are carrying six receivers and only three running backs on the current roster. While Deonte Thompson is projected to be the team’s kick returner, if healthy, but who will return punts?

McCluster is still just 28 years old and provides a speedy option as a returner. He can also play in the slot or as a pass-catching running back.

- WR Kenny Bell

Bell is probably the unlikeliest of fits but still does provide a speedy option as a return specialist.

Bell was a fifth round pick in 2015 and was recently released. He hasn’t shown much as a receiver but if the Bears are desperate enough, he could be an option as an all-around return man.

- RB/WR DeAnthony Thomas

Thomas may be the most ideal add for multiple reasons.

1. He has the versatility to play either running back or in the slot. 

2. He is one of the fastest players in the league and has explosive abilities as a return specialist. 

3. He’s going into his third year and still holds two years of cheap control at only 23-years-old.

The downside? The Bears would likely have to part with a late round pick for him. He’s rumored to be on the block, though.

- RB Knile Davis 

Like Thomas, Davis is on the block in Kansas City. He’s going into the final year of his rookie contract but does provide special teams value as a returner and could be a nice change-of-pace back for them as well.

Davis has been on the block for a while and according to multiple Chiefs writers, either he or Thomas will be traded before Week 1.

Tight End

The team elected to go with three tight ends but only one, Zach Miller, would be classified as a receiving threat, as Khari Lee and Greg Scruggs are far better in-line blockers.

-TE Jace Amaro

Amaro was a highly regarded receiving prospect coming out of college when the New York Jets took him in the second round of the 2014 draft.

He has struggled in New York but many believe he just needs a change of scenery. At this point, he might be worth a waiver wire claim to see what he could do.

-E.J. Bibbs
-Anthony Denham
-Owen Daniels
-Bryce Williams

    Offensive Tackle

    The Bears elected to keep just one swing tackle in Mike Adams but could be looking to make an upgrade. There’s really not much to say about these names outside of a possible better scheme fit but for the most part, the tackle market is scarce.

    -Andy Malumba
    -Erik Pears
    -Willie Beavers
    -Khalif Barnes

    Offensive Guard/Center

    Shelley Smith and Khaled Holmes were part of the Bears final roster casualties, which leaves Amini Silatolu and Cornelius Edison as the only interior O-line depth. Not exactly inspiring. Luckily for them, there are some good options on the market.

    -Josh Sitton

    Sitton is by far the most surprising name on the list of cuts from this afternoon. He just turned 30 in June, so there should still be a good amount of tread left on the tires and he would provide a sizable upgrade at either left guard or center, where he's proven to be comfortable

    Because Sitton is a vested veteran, he is not subject to the waiver wire, which means he is free to talk to and sign with any team. He won’t come cheap but he’s a worthwhile investment that could truly help boost a struggling offensive line.

    -John Sullivan 

    Sullivan is another former NFC North foe who was released recently from the Minnesota Vikings after losing his starting job to Joe Burger.

    Sullivan spent the entire year on IR in 2015 after a back injury. He's 31 but he still has some value, especially in the Bears zone-blocking scheme. 

    Sullivan may not be a long-term fit but could be added and penciled in as a Week 1 starter. He'd be an upgrade over Ted Larsen, allowing Larsen to move back to the swing guard spot, where he fits best. 

    -Geoff Schwartz
    -Bryan Stork
    -Louis Vasquez
    -Fernando Velasco
    -Cyril Richardson
    -Jahri Evans

    Defensive Line

    Although defensive coordinator Vic Fangio looks to be set along the defensive line, there are a few intriguing options if the coaching staff doesn't feel comfortable with what they have.

    -Terrance Knighton
    -Henry Melton
    -Kenrick Ellis

    Outside Linebacker

    Pernell McPhee will begin the year on PUP. As a result, the team’s pas- rushing corps takes a sizable hit, even if just for depth purposes. The Bears are likely to stay put and wait it out but there are a few names they could use the next six weeks on a tryout basis. 

    -Corey Lemonier 

    Lemonier was a former third-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers back in 2013, while Fangio was with the team. He is now looking for a new home and the Bears could be a possible fit. 

    -O’Brien Schofield

    Schofield has been a player identified by many as an interest point for the Bears the majority of this off-season. He’s currently a free agent, so all it takes is a signed contract.

    -Erik Striker

    The former Oklahoma Sooner was one of the surprise players to go undrafted back in April. He signed as a priority free agent with the Buffalo Bills shortly after the draft but finds himself on the market again. Striker was a disruptive pass rusher in college but is severely undersized.

    Cornerback

    -Eric Rowe

    Rowe is the most interesting option on this list but, make no mistake, if the Bears want him, it’s going to cost them.

    He’s a former second-round pick from 2015 who has not fit into the Eagles’ system like they had hoped. Some project him more as a safety but he has the profile with which Fangio could really work.

    There have been multiple reports that Philly continues to shop him, so if the Bears want a high-upside addition, he’s one to look at.

    -Pierre Desir

    At 6-2 and going into his third year in the league, Desir is an attractive option. He is used to playing in man coverage and has shown he can be around the ball and make plays.

    He is still a bit of a project but he likely provides more upside than either Jacoby Glenn or Demontre Hurst.

    -Dee Milliner

    Milliner can be considered a bust due to his first-round status and what he wasn’t able to accomplish in New England. There’s really no telling if he can be “fixed” at this point but his pedigree may be worth a flier.

    -Sterling Moore
    -Charles Gaines
    -Keenan Lewis (Injured)
    -Kalen Reed
    -Blidi Wreh-Wilson

    How much will the Bears do before Week 1?

    The Bears still have a number of holes on the roster and depth is a serious concern. If they want to compete for a playoff spot this year, they will look to make upward of five moves to improve the depth on this thin roster.

    Waiver Claims will be awarded at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday. The Bears are 11th on the list and will continue to stay there until the first week's results change the order. 


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