NFL free agency begins next Tuesday and the Chicago Bears are beginning to prioritize their targets. While much of the early focus for the Bears has been on the defensive line, the team can’t avoid the glaring discrepancies at the safety position. With Major Wright set to test free agency and Chris Conte struggling considerably last season, the Bears likely will need to address the position in free agency or through the draft in May.
To add to that point, what the Bears do in the draft will be heavily dependent on what the team does in free agency.
The consensus is that Bears general manager Phil Emery will attack free agency like he did last season. Emery highlighted the Bears needs and addressed them immediately last off-season with the signings of left tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett.
If the Bears get their wish, then Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward may be their early coup. According to a report from Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun Times, the Bears plan on targeting Ward and Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd in free agency. The report goes on to state that Ward may be the likelier of the two, and in any event, the price would have to be right for the team.
That has been the area of concern for Bears fans when they think about the team signing Byrd or Ward. Do the Bears have enough money to do so? The short answer to that question is yes. Between the contract gurus in the Bears front office and looming release of Julius Peppers, the Bears should have enough money available to them in order to sign Byrd or Ward. Though, safe to say that any contract for the two would have to be back-loaded.
Byrd and Ward both made the pro bowl this past season.
Byrd finished the season with 48 combined tackles to go along with 1 forced fumble and 4 interceptions while playing 11 games for the Bills.
Ward, on the other hand, finished the season with 112 tackles and 2 interceptions while playing in all 16 of the Browns games.
With targets like Byrd and Ward, the NFL free agency period will provide the Bears with their first opportunity to improve their defense.