Free agency is just around the corner, and the Chicago Bears have plenty of work to do with the roster. General manager Ryan Poles has made it clear he’s building his roster the way he wants, and we’ll get a good idea of what that looks like in free agency.
The Bears are slated to have roughly $36.9 million in available cap space — before any additional trades, releases or restructures — and a lot of roster holes to fill. With 28 in-house free agents, Poles has some big decisions to make about whether to retain any current players.
We’re predicting whether these Bears free agents will be back with the team or departing in free agency.
The Bears didn’t place the franchise tag on Allen Robinson, and he’s expected to be a top wide receiver option across free agency.
Last summer, Akiem Hicks expressed his desire to remain in Chicago. But he’s on the wrong side of 30 and could command a substantial contract, which means he’s likely headed for free agency.
Bilal Nichols was one of former GM Ryan Pace’s best late-round draft picks, and he’s certainly earned another contract. We’ll see if Nichols fits the Bears’ new 4-3 scheme.
After everything that happened in Chicago this year, there’s no way Andy Dalton wants to return to the Bears. Not that Chicago would re-sign him anyway given Nick Foles is still under contract and will back up Justin Fields.
Jimmy Graham won’t be on the Bears roster in 2022, although given a contract restructure last season, he’ll still carry a $4.66 million cap hit.
The sense from Poles is the Bears are retooling the offensive line, and Germain Ifedi isnt likely to be part of that. Ifedi was outplayed by fifth-round rookie Larry Borom.
While Tashaun Gipson has been a solid safety and great leader in the locker room, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him hit free agency. Which means Chicago needs to find another safety opposite Eddie Jackson.
The offensive line will be a focus this offseason, and re-signing James Daniels is certainly in play. Daniels is just 24 years old and has been solid for the Bears. But if he commands too much money, Poles might move on.
Jakeem Grant joined the Bears last October via trade, and he was certainly worth the cost on special teams and his limited action on offense. Grant is a Pro Bowler and All-Pro return specialist, and he showed his potential as a receiver.
Jason Peters was arguably the most consistent offensive lineman in 2021. But the future Hall of Famer is going to be 41 at the start of next season, and Poles is certainly going to lean younger at the position.
Pat O’Donnell has been with the Bears for eight years, and he’s been a solid get at punter. While Chicago signed punter Ryan Winslow earlier this offseason, that doesn’t mean O’Donnell is gone.
Cole Kmet is the only tight end under contract in 2022, which means there’s going to need to be some work done at the position. Jesse James is a good option to bring back as a reserve, especially given he has proven chemistry with Fields.
While Damien Williams proved to be a reliable running back when called upon, it’s hard to see him returning when Chicago has a backfield with David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert.
Deon Bush has been reliable safety depth and a valuable special teams contributor for the last several years, and nothing’s changed in that regard.
Alec Ogletree was a happy accident for the Bears last season, and he proved to be a solid starter opposite Roquan Smith. But as Chicago looks to get younger, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ogletree walk.
Marquise Goodwin wasn’t as involved on offense as many expected, but he’s likely not returning as the Bears look to rebuild their receivers room with Darnell Mooney.
As the Bears prepare for a switch to a 4-3 base defense, there’s a greater emphasis on linebackers, which could be encouraging news for Jones. Then again, Poles might look elsewhere.
Damiere Byrd had the play of the year with his two-point conversion against the Seahawks, and he’s certainly got the speed to stretch the field. But there’s a good chance Chicago will let him walk.
Like with O’Donnell, Patrick Scales has been with the Bears for awhile and could return. Chicago did sign long snapper Beau Brinkley earlier this offseason, and we’ll see how that impacts Scales.
DeAndre Houston-Carson had a mini breakout season in 2021, where he showed his potential to step in as a starter when needed and made some big plays. It certainly helps he’s also a valuable special teams contributor, and he could be back again in 2022.
The offensive line is going to be a focal point this offseason, which means some big changes are coming. Elijah Wilkinson was solid depth, but it doesn’t feel like he’ll be brought back.
Cornerback is another position that needs overhaul this offseason, but it doesn’t feel like Artie Burns is going to be around for that.
Even Joel Iyiegbuniwe doesn’t believe he’s returning to the Bears next season. Although we’ll see what Poles chooses to do.
Adam Redmond didn’t get any playing opportunities as a reserve, and it would be a surprise if he was brought back in 2022.
The offensive line is a focal point this offseason, and Alex Bars is a depth piece certainly worth keeping around at an affordable price.
JP Holtz has served primarily as a blocker on offense and key special teamer for the Bears, which might be enough to earn him an affordable deal.
Ryan Nall was one of Chicago’s preseason darlings, but he hasn’t been involved much on offense. The Bears recently signed Darrynton Evans, and it’s hard to imagine Poles bringing Nall back.