The biggest obstacle to the Chicago Bears’ Free Agency plans has arrived

2 October 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Washington Commanders defensive tackle Daron Payne (94) in action during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Commanders AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears have more money to spend in 2023 free agency than anyone else. GM Ryan Poles is equipped with the equivalent of a full arsenal. He can pursue any free agent he wants and pay more than anyone can for them. That doesn’t mean the Bears will be reckless with their money. As always, the plan is to be disciplined. They will be aggressive when the time calls for it, but Poles are not going to establish the team’s identity through the veteran market. He’ll likely use it to fix two or three positions he feels can’t be properly addressed in the draft.

But before such moves can be made, the Bears must wait out the franchise tag window. According to Adam Schefter, that process officially began on February 21. It will continue for the next two weeks through March 7. During that time, teams can designate one player on their roster with the franchise tag, ensuring they don’t hit the open market for at least one more year. This has a chance to pull several big names out of the pool of Bears targets.

The Chicago Bears need to sweat this out.

Of the candidates Schefter listed, Daron Payne is the one the Bears will keep a close eye on. The big defensive tackle was dominant in 2022, with 11.5 sacks. He represents the interior pass rush ability Chicago desperately needs for its defensive line. If the Washington commanders notice him, it makes life more difficult for Poles to find a solution to that problem. Some other prominent names that could get a surprise tag include Falcons right tackle Kaleb McGary, Broncos defensive tackle Dre’mont Jones and wide receiver Jacobi Meyers.

The challenge with the franchise tag is teams figuring out if they can fit the numbers on their books. It is not easy as several teams are against or over the salary cap. That is why the list of obvious candidates is not too long. When the deadline closes on March 7, the Chicago Bears will have a clear vision of who will be available and who they should prioritize when the trade window opens two days before free agency on the 13th. Keep a close eye on the offensive and defensive tackle markets.

Educated as a writer at the prestigious Columbia College in Chicago, Erik has spent the last 10 years covering the Bears.

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