Chicago Bears free agency: Go get Donte Whitner

Sep 27, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns strong safety Donte Whitner (31) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 27, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns strong safety Donte Whitner (31) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Bears may not be finished acquiring talent. Some say they are in the mix for Muhammad Wilkerson, but free agent safety Donte Whitner could be a better, more valuable option.

The Chicago Bears are busy trying to build a contender right away. General manager Ryan Pace has already made some very good free agent signings, and the rumors are churning about him possibly going after New York Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson.

The thing to keep in mind when it comes to what Pace is doing is that he is getting the players he wants without breaking the bank. That may not be the case with Wilkerson.

Wilkerson has already been franchised, so he will be making over $15 million this season ($15.7 to be exact). He is looking for a long-term deal that would probably be at least $50 million in guaranteed salary.

In addition to that, the Chicago Bears would need to give a king’s ransom to the Jets to make a trade. The Jets are looking for a first-round pick, and probably multiple picks in return for one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL.

For a team that is looking to become a contender again, that cost may be too high. There are still needs in several areas, and while having a stud like Wilkerson would make the Chicago Bears defensive line really tough, those other areas will not be addressed effectively without the picks.

The better option for Pace and the Bears would be going after free agent safety Donte Whitner.

Whitner was released by the Cleveland Browns on April 2nd, making him a free agent.

Whitner was a first round pick (8th overall) by the Buffalo Bills in 2006. He played five seasons for Buffalo before signing with the San Francisco 49ers for three seasons. He played with Cleveland for the last two seasons.

It was with San Francisco that Whitner had his most effective seasons. He was a Pro Bowler in two of the three seasons, intercepting five passes, forcing five fumbles and recording 218 tackles.

As has been the case for almost as long as I can remember, the Chicago Bears are thin at safety. They have Adrian Amos at free safety and Antrel Rolle at strong safety.

Rolle had an injury-plagued season last year, having played in just seven games. He is in the second year of a three-year, $11.25 million contract, but his guarantee of $4.9 million was paid last season, so if he is cut the Chicago Bears have no dead money (another great deal made by Pace).

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Rolle may be on the downside of his career, while Whitner is still playing well. He is three years younger than Rolle, so he has an advantage there. He also has history with Bears coaches, and that will help him as well.

Whitner’s three seasons with San Francisco were played under current defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Fangio knows what to expect from Whitner, and how to use him.

Whitner was set to make $6.2 million in 2016, but getting cut so late in the offseason will make it tough for him to make that. Most teams already spent what they planned to spend and got the players who were available, so the market is pretty thin.

The Bears are in a unique situation with Whitner. They still have plenty of salary cap space for 2016 (over $23 million), and they have a need at safety.

Next: Chicago Bears Rumors: Should They Go After Muhammad Wilkerson?

The Chicago Bears should think hard about going after Donte Whitner. He is still a good player and he could help solidify the defense, making the unit the Monsters they once were.