NFC North free-agent review: Bears getting better

The Bears made it clear where they want to improve, adding two key linebackers, and that should have been their focus after a rocky 2015.

The Chicago Bears have made one thing clear this offseason and it’s that they are looking to improve their defense, especially up the middle. Of their 10 free-agent signings this offseason, six of them have been on the defensive side of the ball – two cornerbacks, two linebackers and two defensive linemen.

Their biggest moves this offseason, apart from sticking the franchise tag on wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, were the signing of two new inside linebackers, Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman. The Bears made the transition into a 3-4 defense last season and now they are continuing to get the right personnel to run that style.

Trevathan played for the Super Bowl-winning Denver Broncos last year and was the No. 1-rated free-agent inside linebacker this offseason by Scout. His signing makes the Bears defense better almost instantaneously. Then when they add Freeman, who was the No. 5-rated free-agent inside linebacker by Scout, they have one of the better pairs of inside linebackers in the NFL.

The Bears finished the regular season with the No. 20 scoring defense in the NFL, allowing an average of 24.8 points per game. Their main area of struggle was in their rush defense, allowing 120.9 rushing yards per game. That made them the 22nd-ranked run defense in the NFL and this offseason they made it clear they are looking to change that.

Trevathan missed just one game last season but was still able to record 109 tackles in the regular season – added 22 tackles in the postseason – and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He is only 25 years old and entering into just his fifth year in the NFL, meaning he will be anchoring down the middle of the Bears defense for years to come.

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Freeman is also entering just his fifth year in the NFL, so the Bears run defense should be significantly improved for quite a few years. Freeman may not have been as highly touted this offseason as Trevathan was but he actually had a more productive 2015 season. He played in 13 games and recorded 112 tackles, three sacks and one interception (which he returned for a touchdown).

The Bears also added free-agent defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. At 6-foot-5, 324 pounds he is a dominating force in the middle of any defense. He played for both the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints last year, recording 23 tackles, three sacks and one fumble recovery in 16 regular-season games. He may not have the most impressive stats, but his role will likely be more to take up blockers along the line in order to free up the players behind him.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has found a lot of success against the Chicago Bears throughout his career, rushing for 100 or more yards eight times and breaking the 200-yard mark twice in 14 career games against his division rival. Things should only be getting more difficult for him, though, after the Bears have taken several steps so far this offseason to improve their run defense. 

NFL FREE-AGENT TRACKER


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