NFL free agency doesn’t technically begin until 3 p.m. Wednesday, but free agency news will begin to break as soon as 11 a.m. Monday, when the league’s “legal tampering period opens.”
At 11 a.m. Monday, unrestricted free agents and their agents can begin negotiating with teams across the league. They cannot sign any contracts until Wednesday, but hand shakes will be made in the preceding two days.
Stay right here all week long with Shaw Local as NFL free agency news breaks. This page will be updated with the latest news.
New league year begins, Bears make several moves official
At 3 p.m. Wednesday, the NFL’s new league year officially began. Free agent players can now put pen to paper on new contracts. Previously agreed to trades can become official.
The Bears announced several moves, which had previously been reported but were not official. The Bears and Chargers made the trade for Khalil Mack official. They officially released running back Tarik Cohen and linebacker Danny Trevathan.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) March 16, 2022
The Bears announced they have signed defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, offensive lineman Lucas Patrick and linebacker Nicholas Morrow.
Long snapper Patrick Scales signs one-year extension with Bears
The Bears announced a one-year extension for long snapper Patrick Scales. Scales has been with the team since 2015 and remains one of the longest-tenured Bears.
Oh SNAP. Pat is back!
We have signed @p_scales to a one-year contract extension. 🐻⬇️
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) March 16, 2022
Former Bears cornerback Artie Burns to sign with Seattle
Former Bears cornerback Artie Burns is expected to sign with the Seattle Seahawks, per a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday. Burns will sign a one-year, $2 million contract and will once again team up with former Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2022
Burns appeared in 11 games for the Bears last season, including six starts. The team started Kindle Vildor at cornerback to begin the season, but when the coaching staff benched Vildor late in the year, Burns benefitted. He had 23 total tackles and six passes defended.
Burns, 26, originally signed with the Bears in 2020. He tore his ACL in training camp before the 2020 season and missed a whole year before returning to the field in 2021. He is a former Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round draft pick.
Desai is taking on an associate head coaching position with Pete Carroll in Seattle. He specializes in the 3-4 defense and, in particular, the secondary. Bringing in Burns gives Desai a defensive back who he is quite familiar with.
Burns’ departure leaves the Bears with Jaylon Johnson, Duke Shelley and Vildor as the three most experienced cornerbacks on the roster. Thomas Graham Jr. saw some game action last season.
Jakeem Grant, Bilal Nichols sign elsewhere
One of only two Bears Pro Bowl performers in 2021 is leaving town. Bears return specialist Jakeem Grant is expected to sign a contract with the Cleveland Browns, according to a report from the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
The #Browns are signing Pro Bowl return man and WR Jakeem Grant to a three-year deal worth up to $13.8 million, per source. 💰
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 16, 2022
Grant’s deal is reportedly for three years and up to $13.8 million. The Bears traded a 2023 sixth-round draft pick to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for Grant in October. Listed as a wide receiver, Grant played sparingly on offense. He did, however, average 13.9 yards per punt return for the Bears, including a team-record 97 yard punt return touchdown against the Packers at Lambeau Field in December.
Grant earned his first Pro Bowl appearance and second-team All-Pro honors in 2021. Pass rusher Robert Quinn, who remains under contract, was the Bears’ other Pro Bowler last season.
Also leaving the team is defensive tackle Bilal Nichols, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 16, 2022
Nichols is expected to sign a two-year, $11 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders, with $9 million guaranteed. A 2018 fifth-round draft pick, Nichols worked his way into a starting role on the defensive line. He played in all 16 games in 2020 and all 17 in 2021, making 31 starts over those two seasons. Last season, Nichols recorded five tackles for loss, three sacks and two fumble recoveries.
Nichols’ departure might have more to do with the Bears’ new scheme than his abilities as a player. The Bears are looking for specific types of linemen on their defensive front. They already found their “3-technique” in free agent Larry Ogunjobi. They still need someone to play the nose tackle spot.
With Nichols and guard James Daniels walking in free agency, Roquan Smith is now the only Bears player drafted in 2018 who remains with the team.
Bears expected to sign former Packers interior lineman Lucas Patrick
The Bears have bolstered their offensive line. They agreed to terms with former Green Bay Packers interior lineman Lucas Patrick.
The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first reported the deal Tuesday night. It’s reportedly a two-year, $8 million contract with $4 million fully guaranteed in 2022.
2 years, $8M with $4M fully guaranteed in year 1. https://t.co/RbEplzsSvE
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 16, 2022
Patrick, 28, has started 28 games over the last two seasons. At various times, he has started at left guard, right guard and center. He appeared in all 17 games last season and all 16 games in 2020 for the Packers. Patrick originally signed with the Packers after going undrafted out of Duke in 2016. He spent 2016 on the practice squad before making the active roster a year later.
The Bears have added some needed depth on the offensive line after losing guard James Daniels earlier in the day. Daniels, a 2018 second-round draft pick by the Bears, is leaving to join the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to reports.
Patrick will be reunited with Luke Getsy, the Bears offensive coordinator and former Packers quarterbacks coach. Patrick’s versatility could be valuable for the Bears. The 6-foot-3, 313-pound lineman can play multiple spots on the line.
Bears reportedly agree to terms with linebacker Nicholas Morrow
The Bears found a linebacker to pair with Roquan Smith in head coach Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 system. The Bears have agreed to a deal with former Raiders linebacker Nicholas Morrow, according to multiple reports Tuesday night.
LB Nicholas Morrow is signing with the Chicago Bears, per source
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 16, 2022
Morrow, 26, has been with the Raiders since 2017. He missed the entire 2021 season due to an ankle injury. Prior to that he had missed only two games over the previous four seasons. Morrow originally signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of Division III Greenville University in 2017.
Morrow had a career-best 78 combined tackles when he last saw the field in 2020. He added three sacks, nine passes defended, one interception and one forced fumble.
Former Bears guard James Daniels agrees to deal with Steelers
Former Bears guard James Daniels is reportedly set to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers on a three-year, $26.5 million contract, per a report from the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 15, 2022
The Bears drafted Daniels with a second-round pick (39th overall) in 2018. He spent four seasons with the Bears, playing both guard and center at various times.
After suffering a pectoral injury in 2020 that cut his season short after five games, Daniels started at right guard all 17 games for the Bears in 2021. His departure leaves a hole on the Bears’ offensive line at right guard. He will reunite with former Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky in Pittsburgh.
Recapping Monday’s biggest deals
As always, the deals came quickly once the legal tampering period opened Monday. Here are some of the top signings across the NFL Monday. All of these signings are according to reports by national outlets.
The Jaguars went on the biggest spending spree, which included deals for tight end Evan Engram, receiver Christian Kirk, guard Brandon Scherff and linebacker Foye Oluokun, among others. In Cincinnati, Joe Burrow is losing a weapon. Former Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah is signing with the Jets on a three-year deal. Cincinnati did, however, bolster the offensive line by signing former Bucs guard Alex Cappa to a four-year contract. With Tom Brady now out of retirement, the Bucs re-signed center Ryan Jensen to a three-year deal. Also at center, the Rams re-signed Illinois native Brian Allen for three more years.
The Chiefs signed safety Justin Reid to replace departed safety Tyrann Mathieu. Also in the AFC West, the Chargers bolstered their secondary with J.C. Jackson on a five-year, $82.5 million deal.
Arizona gave running back James Conner a three-year, $21 million deal and also signed tight end Zach Ertz to a three-year deal.
In quarterback news, former Bears QB Mitch Trubisky heads to the Steelers on a two-year deal. Former Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will reportedly become Tua Tagovailoa’s backup in Miami.
In the NFC North, the Lions signed former Jaguars receiver D.J. Chark to a one-year contract. The Packers gave linebacker Preston Smith a four-year extension. Green Bay also cut Za’Darius Smith to clear cap space. Star receiver Davante Adams is reportedly uninterested in playing on a one-year franchise tag deal. The Vikings had a relatively quiet day, but agreed to an extension with quarterback Kirk Cousins. The deal adds one more year to Cousins’ contract, which had been entering its final season, and frees up additional cap space immediately.
Bears expected to sign DT Larry Ogunjobi
With Eddie Goldman released and Bilal Nichols hitting free agency, the Bears had a hole on the defensive line. They have now solidified that hole by agreeing to a deal with former Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, according to multiple reports.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 14, 2022
The agreement is for a three-year, $40.5 million contract with $26.35 million guaranteed, per reports.
Ogunjobi, 27, has played five seasons in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns drafted him with a 2017 third-round pick and he spent four seasons in Cleveland. He then signed a one-year contract with the Bengals last year. He is coming off his best season. In 2021, he had 49 combined tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks for the Bengals.
Ogunjobi suffered a foot injury during the Bengals’ Wild Card round playoff victory over Las Vegas. He sat out the remainder of the postseason and the injury required surgery.
Former Bears QB Mitch Trubisky to sign with Steelers
With Ben Roethlisberger now retired, the Pittsburgh Steelers were in need of a new quarterback this offseason. They found him Monday. Former Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky is expected to sign with the Steelers.
The two sides have agreed on a two-year contract, according to the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
The #Steelers have reached agreement on a two-year deal with QB Mitchell Trubisky, sources say. The former No. 2 overall pick heads to Pittsburgh as the expected starter in place of the retired Ben Roethlisberger.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 14, 2022
Trubisky spent last season as the backup quarterback behind Buffalo Bills starter Josh Allen. He appeared in only six games with eight pass attempts.
Under former general manager Ryan Pace, the Bears drafted Trubisky with the second-overall pick in the 2017 draft. He played four seasons in Chicago before the Bears released him last year. Trubisky started 50 games for the Bears over four seasons, leading the team to two playoff appearances.
What are the Bears looking for in free agency?
Last week was eventful for the Bears. General manager Ryan Poles traded Pro Bowl pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chargers in exchange for draft picks on Thursday. Then on Friday, he released running back Tarik Cohen as well as defensive tackle Eddie Goldman.
In order to build his own team, Poles is first going about dismantling the team Ryan Pace built. The trades and cuts were just the opening salvos for what figures to be a big week at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.
So what exactly are the Bears looking for in free agency? Well, they have many needs. The most pressing is at wide receiver, where Darnell Mooney is the only returning player with any real NFL experience. Quarterback Justin Fields needs playmakers. Look for the team to be involved with at least one big-name wide receiver.
Additionally, the Bears are in need of both a starting cornerback and a safety. They might also be in the market for an offensive tackle after playing out the end of last season with two rookies playing the tackle positions. Starting right guard James Daniels is a free agent, leaving a hole at guard as well.
What is Ryan Poles strategy?
Poles has kept fans guessing since he took over as general manager. But trading Mack on Thursday signaled that this is going to be a long-term project, not a quick fix, at Halas Hall.
Creating salary cap flexibility in 2023 and beyond has clearly become a priority for Poles.
Trading Mack saved about $6 million against the salary cap in 2022. The big savings, however, come next year, when getting Mack’s contract off the books frees up $28.5 million in cap space. Cutting Goldman saves at least $6.6 million in 2022, but also frees up the $8.3 million base salary he was due in 2023. Cutting Cohen saves $2.25 million this year, and more than $5 million in 2023.
With all those moves combined, the Bears currently have only 20 players under contract in 2023, eating up only $86 million in cap space and leaving $138 million in available space.
That gives Poles nearly unlimited possibilities. Expect the Bears to be active in free agency.
Source: The Daily Chronicle