The Chicago Bears are in the midst of an important 2023 offseason, where general manager Ryan Poles will look to retool the roster and build a contender.
Free agency is just over a month away, which means Poles is busy doing his research on veterans and draft prospects with the draft just a couple months away.
The Bears are slated to have an estimated $98.6 million in available cap space — before any trades, releases or restructures — and a lot of roster holes to fill. With the most cap space (by a wide margin), Poles has plenty of resources to help retool this roster. And he’ll have some decisions to make about some in-house free agents.
We’re predicting whether these Bears free agents will be back with the team or departing in free agency.
RB David Montgomery
Montgomery was a key part of the Bears’ top-ranked rushing attack in 2022 and a consistent offensive playmaker. Both Montgomery and Poles have expressed their desire for the fourth-year running back to remain in Chicago. Now, it’s about getting a deal done.
LB Nicholas Morrow
Morrow had a career year with the Bears and was one of Poles’ best free agent additions. Morrow stepped up at WILL linebacker when Roquan Smith was traded. While he’s not the impact player needed to dominate in Matt Eberflus’ defense, linebacker is low on the list on needs right now, and Morrow could ink another one-year extension.
WR Byron Pringle
The Bears took a swing with Pringle, who had flashes during his time with the Chiefs. But the Pringle experiment was a failure, due to injuries and lack of production. Chicago will look for a fresh start at receiver.
OL Sam Mustipher
Given Mustipher’s experience at center (he’s started all but one game in the last two years), it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back in Chicago — albeit in a reserve role.
OL Riley Reiff
Reiff stepped up at right tackle for the Bears in 2022, which earned him strong praise from Poles. Still, Reiff is 34 and have guys like Larry Borom and Alex Leatherwood as reserve options at tackle.
S DeAndre Houston-Carson
Houston-Carson has been a mainstay on the Bears, and he was one of three players that Poles brought back in his first year as GM. Houston-Carson has been a valuable contributor on special teams and as a reserve on defense. It’s an easy decision to bring the special teams leader back for another year.
DT Armon Watts
Watts was claimed off waivers by Chicago ahead of the regular season, and he ended up serving as a key contributor along the defensive line. The Bears will overhaul the entire defensive line, but Watts is someone who could be brought back as a rotational piece.
LS Patrick Scales
Scales has been the Bears’ long snapper since 2015, and he was one of those few in-house free agents Poles brought back in 2022. There’s no reason for Chicago not to re-sign him. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
DT Angelo Blackson
Blackson started the year as a starter, but that lasted just three games before he was replaced by Watts. That, coupled with the fact that he’s not a scheme fit for Eberflus’ defense, it’s easy to put the pieces together that he won’t be back in 2023 (although he’ll still be on the books for $500,000).
WR N’Keal Harry
The Bears traded a seventh-round pick for Harry this offseason, but an ankle injury sidelined him for a good chunk of 2022. He did show his playmaking potential and a nice chemistry with Justin Fields. But unless Harry’s willing to come back at a hometown discount, it seems unlikely he returns.
TE Ryan Griffin
While Griffin did have some productive plays as a blocker, there wasn’t much else to see from him in 2022. The Bears will look to bring in a tight end who can complement Cole Kmet, and Griffin isn’t that guy.
LB Matt Adams
While Adams has an understanding of Eberflus’ defense, you have to wonder if the Bears would rather roll with guys like Morrow and Joe Thomas as depth in 2023.
OL Michael Schofield
Schofield served as a key reserve along the interior of the offensive line, playing both left and right guard. The hometown product isn’t a must-sign, but he could make for solid veteran depth.
DT Mike Pennel
Pennel served as a key rotational piece along the defensive line, where he made an impact in limited action. Pennel is certainly someone the Bears could consider bringing back as key depth, but he’s definitely replaceable.
LB Joe Thomas
Thomas was a key contributor at linebacker for the Bears, where he stepped up when called upon. Thomas was more productive than Adams, which makes him more likely to return as depth in 2023.
WR Dante Pettis
Pettis was more involved on offense than anyone expected in 2022, as well as a key special teams contributor. But the Bears will look to upgrade at receiver this offseason. If the Bears can find a punt returner elsewhere, Pettis won’t be back.
FB Khari Blasingame
The Bears’ offensive identity has been running the football, where Blasingame was a key contributor in blocking. Unless Blasingame finds a better offer, expect him back in 2023.
CB Josh Blackwell
Blackwell, an undrafted rookie claimed off waivers, had his flashes in 2022. He looks like a solid development prospect — also an exclusive rights free agent — who should get a chance to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster.
TE Trevon Wesco
Wesco started the year as TE3 behind Kmet and Griffin, but he saw his reps increase and eventually surpassed Griffin on the depth chart. Wesco was a solid blocker, and he’s someone who could certainly be back in 2023.
S Dane Cruikshank
Cruikshank was expected to be a situational contributor for the Bears. But he was unable to stay healthy, and ended the year on injured reserve. Chicago could bring him back on another one-year deal, but there should be other options.
OL Dieter Eiselen
Eiselen wasn’t a factor in 2022. But it would be pretty easy to keep Eiselen, who’s an exclusive rights free agent. That’s not to say he’ll be on the roster come September, but he could be a camp body.
OL Dakota Dozier
Dozier was lost for the season back in minicamp after suffering a left leg injury. The Bears will look to overhaul the offensive line, and it seems unlikely Dozier factors into their plans, even as a reserve.
QB Nathan Peterman
Peterman saw action in three games, including one start, in 2022. But the hope is the Bears will look to bring in a young quarterback to develop behind Fields. Peterman’s services shouldn’t be needed.
CB Breon Borders
Borders appeared in the Bears’ season finale against the Vikings. But considering some of the other young, developmental defensive backs (Jaylon Jones, Josh Blackwell), it’s not likely Borders returns.
LB Javin White
White suffered a torn ligament back in training camp, and he’s slated to become a restricted free agent. It’s hard to see him being retained.