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Chicago Bears: Grading Their Free Agent Signings

The Bears are undergoing wholesale changes for the upcoming season with new general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus heading up the roster makeover

The Bears are undergoing wholesale changes for the upcoming season with new general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus heading up the roster makeover

All signs point to a rebuild for the Chicago Bears in 2022. That became more evident as new general manager Ryan Poles traded Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers for draft picks, parted ways with Tarik Cohen, Danny Trevathan, and Eddie Goldman, and allowed Allen Robinson II, Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, and James Daniels, among others, to walk in free agency. Poles has made it very clear that he wants to build this team his way, and he has already started leaving his handprints on the franchise.

While many of these moves were done to give the team salary cap relief, some were also done to restore draft capital or give the Bears a fresh start at some positions. The first two reasons were a major part of what led to former GM Ryan Pace's dismissal. Another reason why some of these changes to personnel were made is the Bears will be switching to a 4-3 defense under new head coach Matt Eberflus and coordinator Alan Williams, and they need players that will fit the offensive system of coordinator Luke Getsy.

Chicago Bears Offseason Positional Previews: QB I RB I WR I TE I OL I DL I OLB I ILB I CB I S

And since the start of the new league year and free agency, Poles has been signing players that better fit what the Bears plan to do on both sides of the ball (at least in the short term). It may not be what Bears fans are looking for, but if Poles and Co. want to be more successful than the previous regime, they'll need to start from the ground up. Here is how I grade these transactions thus far...

Offense

Trevor Siemian, QB

It's a homecoming of sorts for Siemian, who played his collegiate ball at Northwestern (2011-14). Poles says that he signed Siemian as the backup to Justin Fields because he better fits Getsy's playbook. As a result, Andy Dalton signed with New Orleans in free agency and Nick Foles could be traded at some point before the 2022 season begins.

One concern, however, is that Siemian has struggled over the course of the last three seasons. Between the New York Jets (2019), and the New Orleans Saints ('20-21), he's completed 111 of 194 passes (57.2 percent) for 1,156 yards, 11 touchdowns, and three interceptions. He's also winless in his last five games as a starter.

Siemian has played in some tough situations, the most recent being replacing an injured Jameis Winston last season with the Saints. He may be looking forward to a change of scenery, especially one with past ties, but the hope is that he won't see the field much because Fields is able to stay healthy.

Grade: C

Khari Blasingame, FB

Blasingame gives the Bears their first true fullback since Michael Burton in 2018 (no offense, Ryan Nall). And while he's entering just his fourth NFL season, there's one key aspect that he possesses. For the previous three seasons, he was the lead blocker for Derrick Henry with the Tennessee Titans. And during those seasons, Henry totaled 4,504 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns while averaging more than 100 yards per game and five yards per carry.

The hope is that David Montgomery or whoever gets the handoffs will be able to benefit from Blasingame's presence as a blocker, although it remains to be seen just how much Getsy will use a fullback in his formations. And while Blasingame is not a threat to run the ball himself (6 career rushing yards), he can be used as a receiver and pitch in on special teams as well. There's plenty of projection in this grade but it's not hard to envision this being a good fit either. 

Grade: B+

Byron Pringle, WR

With Robinson now gone, the Bears have decided to get younger pass catchers to complement the apparent new No. 1 receiver in Darnell Mooney. Pringle has put up respectable numbers since entering the league with Kansas City as an undrafted free agent in 2018. Despite missing his first year due to injury, Pringle has posted 67 catches for 898 yards (13.4 ypr) and seven touchdowns in 46 games (eight starts).

He's also recorded 986 kick return yards, which will come in handy since Jakeem Grant Sr. left in free agency. Providing But Pringle stays healthy, he could give this offense a nice spark.

Grade: B

Equanimeous St. Brown, WR

Another young wideout, St. Brown follows Getsy to Chicago from Green Bay. Although he was behind Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and Allen Lazard, among others, on the depth chart during his three seasons with the Packers (2018-21), St. Brown made the most of his chances as evidenced by his 37 receptions for 543 yards (14.7 ypr) with one touchdown catch. Now he has a chance to add to those numbers for a Bears team that's looking for new contributors.

Grade: B-

Ryan Griffin, TE

The addition of Griffin is a signal that the Bears don't plan on bringing Jimmy Graham back. Not only is Griffin younger than Graham (32), but he also comes at a cheaper price ($1.75 million for 2022 per Spotrac). Griffin hasn't posted the same numbers career-wise, but he's been effective with 206 catches for 2,158 yards (10.5 ypr) and 14 touchdowns in 119 career games with the Texans (2013-18) and Jets ('19-21). It'll be interesting to see how much the Bears have Griffin and starting tight end Cole Kmet on the field at the same time.

Grade: C-

James O'Shaughnessy, TE

Even though the addition of Griffin gave the Bears three tight ends on the roster (Kmet, Griffin, and Jesper Horsted), they weren't done adding at the position. O'Shaughnessy is another new Bear who is coming home, as he grew up in the suburb of Naperville and played at Illinois State. In the league since 2015, O'Shaughnessy has played for Kansas City (2015-16) and Jacksonville ('17-21). More known for his blocking than receiving, O'Shaughnessy has posted 112 receptions for 1,108 yards (9.9 ypr) and three touchdowns in his career (80 games, 40 starts). Of the four tight ends, he may have the most to prove during minicamps and once training camp begins.

Grade: C-

Dakota Dozier, G

With James Daniels now in Pittsburgh, Dozier comes in with a chance to compete for a starting job. Dozier enters his ninth season with 76 games played (27 starts) with the Jets (2014-18) and Vikings (2019-21). He doesn't have a wealth of starting experience, and his 2021 season was impacted significantly by COVID-19, including a brief hospital stay, but he's basically getting a clean slate with the new regime as the Bears are making significant changes to how their offensive line looks and functions.

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Grade: C

Lucas Patrick, OL

Another former Packer who followed Getsy to the Windy City, Patrick is expected to start at one of the interior spots in the Bears' rebuilt offensive line. Patrick signed with Green Bay as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and, after spending his rookie season on the practice squad, went on to play in 73 games, including 28 starts over the last two seasons. Patrick's familiarity with Getsy is key, but Poles also mentioned his leadership ability and called him a "glue guy in the locker room."

Grade: A

Lachavious Simmons, OL

A seventh-round pick (227th overall) by the Bears in the 2020 draft, Poles is giving Simmons another chance. After spending most of his rookie season on the practice squad, Simmons played in two games last year, making one start. His ability to play tackle and guard may appeal to Poles, a former offensive lineman himself, especially with this position group being one of the team's biggest areas of need right now. But Simmons will need to prove himself during the offseason program and into training camp if he wants to be a part of the 53-man roster.

Grade: D

Defense

Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE

As the Bears switch to a 4-3 base defense under Eberflus and Williams, Poles decided to bring in a man that his head coach is very familiar with to help anchor the defensive line. During his previous four seasons with the Colts (2018-21), Muhammad recorded 127 tackles, 11.0 sacks, 22 tackles for a loss, and 30 quarterback hits. He's also effective against the run and should be the perfect complement to Robert Quinn, especially now that Mack is no longer in the fold.

Grade: A

Justin Jones, DT

The former Charger became Plan B after Larry Ogunjobi failed his physical. But after four seasons in the league, Jones' production has been mixed. While he's posted 118 tackles, he only has 4.5 sacks, 12 tackles for a loss, and 13 career QB hits. He's also never played a full regular season. His presence in the middle of the line may mean more than his production, but first he needs to show that he can stay on the field.

Grade: C-

Matt Adams, LB

Another addition who has familiarity with Eberflus and some of the other coaches, Adams was a seventh-round pick by Indianapolis in the 2018 draft. Adams played in 58 games for the Colts, making nine starts, primarily as a special teams contributor, That will likely be his role in Chicago too as Eberflus looks to put his stamp on all three phases of the game, but there could be an opportunity for him to claim a spot as a rotational or situational linebacker.

Grade: C

Nicholas Morrow, LB

All signs point to this former Raider forming a nice one-two punch in the middle next to defensive anchor Roquan Smith. Since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2017, Morrow has made his share of plays when he's been on the field. He's accounted for 254 tackles, 20 tackles, 15 QB hits, and 20 pass deflections. He is my favorite defensive signing for the Bears this year.

Grade: A+

Dane Cruikshank, S

Cruikshank was a teammate of Blasingame's in Tennessee last season. He's only played a full slate of games once in his four-year career (2019), and he's recorded 65 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble when he's been on the field (44 games, four starts). He's still relatively young (26) and should get an opportunity to claim the open starting safety spot opposite Eddie Jackson.

Grade: C

DeAndre Houston-Carson, S

With the Bears since being taken in the sixth round of the 2016 draft, Houston-Carson has been a valuable special teams contributor. He's appeared in 77 games but only made three starts, all coming last season as injuries took their toll on the secondary. He has been credited with 87 tackles in those games, along with two interceptions, two forced fumbles and four recoveries, one of which he turned into a touchdown. Like Cruikshank, Houston-Carson should get a chance to claim the other starting safety job during training camp.

Grade: C

Tavon Young, DB

While injuries have been an issue (suffered season-ending ones in 2017 and '19, limited to just seven games in '21), Young posted decent numbers during his time with the Baltimore Ravens. A fourth-round selection (104th overall) in the 2016 draft, Young has posted 127 tackles and four interceptions, to go along with four sacks, 11 tackles for a loss, and 16 pass deflections in 50 career games (24 starts). A slot cornerback for the Ravens, Young is likely to serve as the nickel cornerback for the Bears, a key role in Eberflus' defense. If he can stay healthy, this signing could end up being one of Poles' best this season.

Grade: B

Special Teams

Patrick Scales, LS

Since 2015, the Bears have used six different placekickers. But the one constant in the operation during that span has been Scales at long snapper. His consistency is why Poles decided to re-sign him, and his familiarity with Cairo Santos makes the kicking game one less thing for this team to worry about.

Grade: A

The Bears have added players to vital positions, but many of these feel like temporary solutions until they are able to fully restock the talent cupboard through the draft.

Overall Grade: C