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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Alyssa Barbieri

Bears free agency preview: Breaking down salary cap, free agents, team needs

Free agency is about to get underway with the start of the legal tampering period, which kicks off Monday at 11 a.m. CT. The Chicago Bears are expected to have a busy free agency, which includes this current wave and the second and third waves.

The Bears have a number of pressing needs to address, including defensive line, offensive line and linebacker, which means general manager Ryan Poles has a lot of work to do with the roster.

Here’s everything you need to know about where the Bears stand ahead the start of free agency and the legal tampering period:

Important dates

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • Monday, March 13: Marks the beginning of the legal tampering window at 11 a.m. CT, which runs through Wednesday at 2:59 p.m. CT.
  • Wednesday, March 15: Marks the start of the new league year at 3 p.m. CT, where deals and trades become official. Teams also must be under the salary cap.

Unrestricted free agents

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
  • RB David Montgomery
  • LB Nicholas Morrow
  • S DeAndre Houston-Carson
  • WR Byron Pringle
  • OL Riley Reiff
  • DT Angelo Blackson
  • WR N’Keal Harry
  • TE Ryan Griffin
  • LB Matt Adams
  • S Dane Cruikshank
  • OL Michael Schofield
  • LB Joe Thomas
  • DT Armon Watts
  • DT Mike Pennel
  • WR Dante Pettis
  • TE Trevon Wesco
  • OL Dakota Dozier
  • QB Nathan Peterman
  • QB Tim Boyle
  • LB Elijah Lee
  • DE Al-Quadin Muhammad*
  • DE Andre Anthony*

*contract terminated by Chicago

Restricted free agents

AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski
  • OL Sam Mustipher
  • RB Darrynton Evans
  • CB Breon Borders
  • LB Javin White

Salary cap space: $75 million

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Bears are expected to have $75 million in salary cap space heading into free agency, per Spotrac. Even after acquiring wide receiver DJ Moore in a trade with the Panthers, Chicago has the most cap space in the NFL.

Team needs

Mike Mulholland/Getty Images
  • Defensive line: The Bears have needs across the defensive line, both off the edge and along the interior. They need two new starters at defensive end, as well as a disruptive three-technique to power Matt Eberflus’ defense.
  • Offensive line: No starting jobs are guaranteed on the offensive line heading into 2023, where there are concerns across the board. Tackle is the biggest concern, where there’s a glaring hole on the right side. There are questions at center and guard, as well.
  • Linebacker: Jack Sanborn is the only starter on the roster, which makes linebacker a priority. Sanborn is the favorite to start at MIKE linebacker while there’s a glaring hole at WILL linebacker. Luckily, there are no shortage of options in free agency.
  • Cornerback: While there are bigger needs on defense, cornerback is a premier position that Poles will look to upgrade The Bears need a solid third cornerback to add to the secondary alongside Jaylon Johnson and Kyler Gordon.

Recent moves

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
  • Bears traded No. 1 pick to Panthers, acquired WR DJ Moore: Poles managed to move the top pick ahead of free agency, where Chicago got two first-rounders, two second-rounders and a No. 1 receiver in Moore.
  • Chicago re-signing Khari Blasingame: The Bears are bringing back their lead blocker for the NFL’s top rushing attack. Per Blasingame’s agency, it’s a two-year extension.
  • Bears re-signing Patrick Scales: Scales remains the longest-tenured Bear, as he’s expected to re-sign with the team, per Kevin Fishbain. That keeps the special teams trio in tact heading into 2023.
  • Chicago released Al-Quadin Muhammad: Muhammad became the Bears’ first salary cap casualty after a disappointing season. His release freed up $3.96 million in cap space.
  • Bears tendered ERFAs Josh Blackwell, Dieter Eiselen, Andrew Brown: Ahead of free agency, Chicago tendered three exclusive rights free agents in Blackwell, Eiselen and Brown to one-year deals.

Potential cap casualties

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

In addition to Muhammad being cut, there are some other players on the chopping block.

  • OL Cody Whitehair: Whitehair has the third-largest cap hit on the team at $14.1 million. Considering Whitehair is coming off another underwhelming season, you have to wonder if Poles decides to move on and bring in a more affordable upgrade at the left guard position.
  • OL Lucas Patrick: Patrick was brought in last offseason to fill the hole at center. Instead, injuries limited him to 10 snaps at the position. Does Poles choose to move on or give him a chance to compete for the starting job heading into 2023?
  • DT Justin Jones: The Bears could save $4.9 million in cap space if they cut Jones. But he’s one of the better free agents and has earned another year. While Chicago will look to find a star at three-technique, you have to figure Jones will still play a key role on next year’s defensive line.

Updated roster


Justin Fields Trevor Siemian

Running back

Khalil Herbert Trestan Ebner Khari Blasingame

Wide receiver 

DJ Moore Darnell Mooney Chase Claypool
Velus Jones Jr. Equanimeous St. Brown Nsimba Webster
Daurice Fountain Joe Reed

Tight end

Cole Kmet Jake Tonges Chase Allen

Offensive line

Cody Whitehair Teven Jenkins Braxton Jones
Lucas Patrick Larry Borom Alex Leatherwood
Ja’Tyre Carter Doug Kramer Dieter Eiselen
Kellen Diesch

Edge rusher

Trevis Gipson Dominique Robinson Jalyn Holmes
Gerri Green Andrew Brown Terrell Lewis

Defensive line

Justin Jones Donovan Jeter


Jack Sanborn Sterling Weatherford DeMarquis Gates
Kuony Deng


Jaylon Johnson Kyler Gordon Kindle Vildor
Jaylon Jones Josh Blackwell Greg Stroman
Harrison Hand Michael Ojemudia


Eddie Jackson Jaquan Brisker Elijah Hicks
A.J. Thomas Adrian Colbert

Special teams

Cairo Santos Trenton Gill Patrick Scales


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