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Top 5 Chicago Bears offensive free-agent targets

A closer look at the top offensive players slated to hit the open market this upcoming off-season, all of whom would fill considerable needs for the Chicago Bears.

Coming off a 3-13 season, the Chicago Bears have obvious holes on both sides of the ball. On offense there are serious needs at quarterback and tight end, offensive tackle needs an upgrade and the Bears may need a new No. 1 wide receiver, depending Alshon Jeffery’s status.

The Bears are expected to have roughly $70 million in cap space after potential cuts like QB Jay Cutler, OLB Lamarr Houston and WR Eddie Royal, so there will be no shortage of cap space in 2017.

Unfortunately for the Bears, the market is shallow at their biggest positions of need on offense, yet there will be some choice options available. 

The crop of upcoming unrestricted free agents will remain fluid as we move closer to March 9, the official start of the 2017 NFL Season, but with thin markets at key positions, let’s take a look at what the Bears could accomplish on the offensive side of the ball.

Note: I’m not going to list RB Le’Veon Bell, as the Bears have found their future starting running back in Jordan Howard.

QB Kirk Cousins (Washington Redskins)

GM Ryan Pace has stated repeatedly his belief that quarterback is the most important position in football. With Cutler expected to be either cut or traded heading into the start of free agency, the Bears will be in serious need at a critical position.

Enter Kirk Cousins, a five-year veteran who was originally drafted by the Redskins as insurance for Robert Griffin III. The former Michigan State Spartan went from career backup to starter two seasons ago and has proved to be, at worst, a league-average starter, which is better than 15-17 other team’s QB situations.

Cousins has thrown 54 TDs the last two years combined, leading the Redskins to the playoffs both seasons, although he has yet to win a playoff game.

He’s prone to untimely turnovers but in a league starved for quarterback talent, his value will be sky-high if the Redskins decide to let him hit the free agent market.

WR Alshon Jeffery (Chicago Bears)

The first and only Bears player to hit either of my lists is Jeffery, who played on a franchise tag in 2016.

Jeffery’s career has been a rollercoaster, especially of late. With back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2013 and 2014, the former South Carolina Gamecock showed Top-5 upside. The issue is that Jeffery has played just 21 games the last two years combined.

After tagging Jeffery last year, Pace said the key to a long-term extension was simple: Keep healthy and stay on the field. He was able to stay healthy but did miss four games due to a PED suspension, which could ultimately complicate things.

The draft is deep with top-end receiver talent but keeping a proven commodity under team control at the right price makes a lot of sense for the Bears, especially with the unknown of Kevin White.

OT Ricky Wagner (Baltimore Ravens)

While I don’t believe offensive tackle is as big of a need as many others, Wagner checks off every box in terms of a pure talent upgrade.

Formerly a fifth-round pick out of Wisconsin in 2013, Wagner has been one of the steadiest right tackles in the league the past four years. 

At 6-6, 310 he provides ideal size and durability, having missed just two games during his four-year career. Wagner also should come at a reasonable price, since he is primarily used at right tackle.

WR Kenny Stills (Miami Dolphins)

With the Jeffery situation up in the air, the Bears will need to look at other options at receiver, just in case he slips through their fingers. Stills is one of the top pass catchers in this year’s market and could provide good value even if Jeffery is re-signed.

It’s assumed the Bears will cut ties with injury-prone receiver Eddie Royal at season’s end, which will save them $5 million for 2017. Stills can play outside or in the slot and his big-play ability, which is something the Bears have lacked over the past few seasons.

It’s well-known that Dolphins head coach Adam Gase is a big fan of Stills but if he does hit the open market, he could provide insurance against Kevin White and give the Bears another reliable receiving target for their new quarterback.

TE Jack Doyle (Indianapolis Colts)

Martellus Bennett will soon become a free agent but after his contentious separation from Chicago just one season ago, he won't be returning.

Jermaine Gresham is another name that interested the Bears last year, when they made a 4-year, $20 million offer to him. He may be on Pace's radar again but Gresham will be 29 by the start of the season, which doesn’t help a team trying to bring in young talent.

Enter 26-year-old Jack Doyle. Mostly an unknown before the 2016 season, the four-year veteran brought surprise production to the Colts, catching 59 passes for 584 yards and 5 TDs.

While he’s not overly athletic and will likely never be a Top 5 tight end, the Bears could use someone like Doyle as insurance against another Zach Miller injury. Miller is on the last year of his two-year deal and will be 33 at year’s end.

Doyle won't command a hefty contract and would be an economical option at tight end, with a lot of upside. 

Top 6-8

QB Mike Glennon (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Many expect Glennon to receive upward of $13 million per year, making him a risky stop-gap option at quarterback but not one to be overlooked.

OT Riley Reiff (Detroit Lions) 

Likely the better of the two top options at offensive tackle due to his versatility, Reiff will likely command more money, moving him a little lower on my list.

WR Terrelle Pryor (Cleveland Browns)

Pryor is coming off a breakout year, which resulted in more than 1,000 receiving yards playing in an anemic Browns passing attack. He’s a quarterback convert but everything out of Browns camp says he’s staying in Cleveland.

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