Bears Could Pursue Top Free Agents

The Bears are set to enter free agency with no shortage of cap space, and it appears they’re primed to put that money to use. General manager Ryan Pace is “extremely prepared” to explore the open market, he told the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs, who writes that the Bears could make “strong” bids for cornerback Stephon Gilmore and, as previously reported, quarterback Mike Glennon. Additionally, the Bears could take a run at right tackle Ricky Wagner.

Stephon Gilmore (vertical)[RELATED: PFR’s Top 50 Free Agents]

As PFR’s Dallas Robinson detailed in January, the Bears are rife with questions at corner. Picking up Gilmore could go a long way toward fixing their issues, then, though the careerlong Bill is going to be costly (Biggs forecasts a $13MM-per-year contract). Gilmore, 26, is a five-year pro who started in each of his appearances (15) for the third straight season and notched a career-high five interceptions in 2016. However, after ranking as one of Pro Football Focus’ 10 best corners in 2015, Gilmore dropped to 61st (among 112 qualifiers) last season. Nevertheless, Gilmore possesses an impressive resume, having racked up 68 appearances, 66 starts and 14 picks since going in the first round of the 2012 draft.

As is the case at corner, the Bears are in dire need of help under center. That figures to lead to a Glennon pursuit, as Biggs relays that he’s Chicago’s No. 1 target to replace the soon-to-be jettisoned Jay Cutler. Glennon sat behind Buccaneers starter Jameis Winston the previous two seasons and barely played during that span, but he previously registered 19 appearances and 18 starts from 2013-14. While the Bucs have tried to retain Glennon at $8MM per year, he’s likely to receive both more money and a legitimate shot to start from another club – perhaps the Bears.

Like Gilmore and Glennon, Wagner figures to earn at least eight figures annually on his next contract. The career Raven, 27, is coming off his third season with at least 14 starts, and he finished as PFF’s 18th-best tackle among 78 qualifiers in 2016. He’d further beef up a Bears offensive line that rated among the league’s 10 best units in both the run and pass blocking departments last year, per Football Outsiders.

Signing Wagner could put incumbent right tackle Bobby Massie in danger of staying on the Bears’ roster. Chicago inked Massie to a three-year, $18MM deal in free agency last offseason, but he went on to rank a so-so 43rd among PFF’s 78 qualified tackles. Massie’s due a $1MM roster bonus March 11 and set to count over $6MM against the Bears’ cap in 2017. Cutting him would leave the team with just $1MM in dead money, however.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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