As general manager Ryan Poles concluded his introductory remarks at the Bears’ season-ending news conference in January, a message was sent to NFL agents — one that he’ll likely repeat when given another opportunity at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“Obviously, we have a lot more resources, so I’m excited to do that,” Poles said before taking questions at Halas Hall. “But we’ve got to stay sound in free agency. I know everyone’s talking about how much money we have and, ‘we’re just going to go crazy.’ We’re going to be sound so that we get the right players in here and we get good value.”
The Bears’ “resources” increased last week when the NFL set the salary cap at $224.8 million. It increased the Bears’ league-leading salary cap space to nearly $99 million, according to Spotrac. The Falcons are next at $56.4 million.
But don’t expect a Jaguars-like spending frenzy in free agency from the Bears. Poles doesn’t want to do that. Or, at the very least, that’s what he wanted to convey publicly in his first comments of the Bears’ offseason.
As always, free agency starts with your own players. Below is a look at 10 of the Bears’ 20 unrestricted free agents. They’re rated from 1 to 10 in terms of the potential interest they could receive from other teams. (Note: The more interesting list for the Bears is which players are entering the final years of their rookie contracts. More on them later this week.)
1. David Montgomery, RB
He’s by far the Bears’ best UFA. The issue for Montgomery is that he plays a position that’s valued differently by teams, and there’s a deep free-agent pool of backs this year. Some teams prefer to reload the position in the draft. The best-case scenario for Montgomery could be re-signing with the Bears on a team-/player-friendly deal. Montgomery shared a backfield with Khalil Herbert in 2022, but he’s still a better pass protector and receiver. Spotrac’s current projection for Montgomery is a three-year, $21.7 million deal.
2. Nicholas Morrow, LB
The signal caller of the Bears defense with and without Roquan Smith, Morrow finished with 116 tackles (83 solo), eight pressures and one interception over 1,041 snaps (according to TruMedia). He was an every-down player for the Bears. Spotrac’s current projection is a two-year, $7.7 million contract.