The NFL’s new league year begins March 16, opening the door for free agents to sign with new teams.
As Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles prepares to rework the roster in his second month on the job, the Tribune will track all of the Bears arrivals and departures and provide insight into what they mean.
The Chicago Bears are releasing running back Tariq Cohen with an injury designation, ESPN reported.
What it means: Cohen hadn’t played in a game since Sept. 27, 2020, when he tore his ACL against the Atlanta Falcons.
His departure from the Bears is not a surprise, especially after general manager Ryan Poles declined to discuss Cohen’s health at the NFL scouting combine last week. Former Bears GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy also often declined to detail the setbacks that kept Cohen off the field for most of the last two seasons.
ESPN reported Cohen wasn’t able to pass a physical yet but still hopes to be ready for the 2022 season.
Pace drafted Cohen in the fourth round out of North Carolina A&T in 2017, and he was an electric addition to the Bears in his first two seasons.
Early in the 2020 season, the Bears signed Cohen to a three-year contract extension worth up to $18.25 million. More than $9.5 million was fully guaranteed. In 51 games until his injury, Cohen totaled 1,101 rushing yards and five touchdowns plus 1,575 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He also was an All-Pro punt returner in 2018.
His best season came in 2018, when he had 444 rushing yards and three touchdowns and 725 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He also had 33 punt returns for 411 yards that season. His production dropped off during the Bears’ offensive struggles of 2019, and he didn’t get much of a chance to rebound in 2020 before the injury.
The Bears have running backs David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert set to return. Pro Bowl returner Jakeem Grant will be a free agent if the Bears don’t try to re-sign him.
The Bears tendered exclusive-rights free agents Sam Mustipher, Lachavious Simmons and Jesper Horsted on Tuesday, but have many more decisions to make in the days to come. Here are the Bears’ pending free agents.
Unrestricted free agents
Allen Robinson, WR
He might be on his way to a fresh start after four seasons in Chicago, the last one a disappointment with just 38 catches for 410 yards. The Bears opted not to use their franchise tag on him a second time.
Jimmy Graham, TE
He had a career-low 14 catches for 167 yards and three touchdowns. The 35-year-old contributed more in a mentorship role than he did on the field.
Andy Dalton, QB
Dalton’s hopes to revive his career as a starter didn’t materialize as the Bears turned to rookie Justin Fields when Dalton was injured. He threw for 1,515 yards, eight touchdowns and nine interceptions in six starts and likely will move on after a year in Chicago.
Jakeem Grant, WR/KR/PR
One of two Bears Pro Bowlers in 2021, along with edge rusher Robert Quinn, Graham was a nice midseason acquisition to help the Bears return game. It will be worth watching where he ends up.
James Daniels, OL
One of the major decisions for the Bears is whether to re-sign the guard after he started all 17 games in his fourth NFL season. He will be only 25 during the 2022 season.
Marquise Goodwin, WR
He joined the Bears on a one-year deal after opting out in 2020 and finished with 20 catches for 313 yards and a touchdown.
Damiere Byrd, WR
In his sixth NFL season and first with the Bears, he had 26 catches for 329 yards and a touchdown.
Jason Peters, OL
The nine-time Pro Bowler, who turned 40 in January, saved the Bears when rookie left tackle Teven Jenkins needed back surgery in training camp. Peters started 15 games in his 17th season.
Germain Ifedi, OL
In his second season in Chicago and sixth in the NFL, he started seven games but spent nearly half the season on injured reserve with a left knee injury.
Elijah Wilkinson, OL
He started one game in his only season for the Bears after four with the Denver Broncos.
Jesse James, TE
He played in 14 games with seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown in his first season in Chicago and seventh overall.
Damien Williams, RB
After opting out in 2020, the seven-year NFL veteran had 40 carries for 164 yards and two touchdowns and 16 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown in 12 games.
Akiem Hicks, DL
He missed eight games with injury in 2021, his sixth season in Chicago, and had 3 sacks and nine quarterback hits. Hicks, who turns 33 in November, seemed to be emotional about the possibility of moving on from the Bears.
Tashaun Gipson, S
He signed one-year deals in back-to-back seasons to start alongside Eddie Jackson. In those two years, he had four interceptions, 10 passes defended and 113 tackles.
Bilal Nichols, DL
The Bears’ 2018 fifth-round pick didn’t get a contract extension last year and now becomes an interesting free agent after totaling 146 tackles, 18 for a loss, 11 sacks, 31 quarterback hits and five passes defended in four seas.
Alec Ogletree, LB
The nine-year veteran started 16 games after joining the Bears in training camp to replace an injured Danny Trevathan. Ogletree had 87 tackles, five tackles for a loss, four passes defended and a forced fumble.
Christian Jones, LB
He was a major contributor on special teams in his second stint in Chicago, which came on a one-year deal. He also made one start on defense.
DeAndre Houston-Carson, S
For six seasons in Chicago, he has been a valuable special teamer, but he stepped up to play more defensive snaps this year. He had 51 tackles, one interception, four passes defended and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in 13 games.
Deon Bush, S
The six-year backup and special teamer made four starts and had a career-high two interceptions and five passes defended.
Artie Burns, CB
He started six of the final seven games after the Bears benched Kindle Wildor, totaling 23 tackles and six passes defended. He previously played four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and sat out 2020 with the Bears with a knee injury.
Marqui Christian, DB
In his sixth NFL season, Christian played a big role on special teams and also played 126 snaps on defense.
Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB
He has been a special teams mainstay for the last four seasons but saw very little time on defence.
Margus Hunt, DL
In his ninth NFL season, he played in 10 games, recording 14 tackles, including 3 for a loss.
Cassius Marsh, EDGE
The veteran had an unfortunate stay in Chicago when he first suffered a controversial taunting penalty against the Pittsburgh Steelers and later suffered a knee injury after playing in just four games.
Bruce Irvin, EDGE
The veteran late-season addition played in the final six games, with seven tackles and two quarterback hits.
Pat O’Donnell, P
He wrapped up his eighth season in the NFL, in which he averaged 46.2 yards per punt and helped kicker Cairo Santos on a team-record made-field-goals streak.
Patrick Scales, LS
He has been with the Bears since 2015 and was in his second year of working with Santos and O’Donnell.
Restricted free agents
The Bears also have five restricted free agents: tight end JP Holtz, offensive lineman Alex Bars, running back Ryan Nall and defensive backs Xavier Crawford and Teez Tabor.
The Bears tendered one-year contracts to exclusive-rights free agents Sam Mustipher, Jesper Horsted and Lachavious Simmons.
What it means: Mustipher started all 17 games for the Bears at center in 2021 after starting seven in 2020. He was an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2019, when he spent the year on the practice squad. Poles will reveal in the weeks ahead whether the Bears see Mustipher as a continued starter or whether they will bring in his replacement and keep him as depth.
Horsted, a tight end, has seen limited playing time with the Bears over three years. He caught two touchdown passes — his only two catches — in seven games in 2021. He had eight catches for 87 yards and a touchdown in 2019 and spent 2020 on the practice squad.
Simmons, an offensive lineman the Bears drafted in the seventh round in 2020, played in two games in 2021, stepping in for a start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a COVID-19 outbreak on the team.
Exclusive-rights free agents are players with two or fewer accrued seasons and an expired contract. When their teams tender them contracts, they can’t negotiate with other teams.