8 pending free agents the Bears should consider re-signing in 2023

The offseason is in full swing, and we’re just over a month away from the start of the new league year and free agency. And the Bears have some important decisions to make when it comes to in-house free agents.

The Bears are slated to have nearly $98.6 million in salary cap space — which is the most in the league (by a wide margin) — and there are plenty of holes to fill on the roster for new general manager Ryan Poles. Perhaps a few of those roster spots will be filled by some of Chicago’s in-house free agents, including some key contributors from last season that could be back as starters or reserves.

Ahead of free agency, we’re looking at some in-house free agents the Bears should consider re-signing in 2023.

RB David Montgomery

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David Montgomery is the biggest name to hit free agency from the Bears. Both Montgomery and GM Ryan Poles have expressed a shared desire for Montgomery to remain in Chicago, as he’s been a key contributor on offense. He’s part of a one-two punch at running back with Khalil Herbert, where Montgomery is solid in pass protection and provides a receiving threat out of the backfield. Perhaps the Bears could ink Montgomery to a team-friendly deal — especially given it’s going to be a crowded running back market in free agency.

LB Nicholas Morrow

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Nicholas Morrow is the other big name for Chicago set to hit the open market, and it’s a toss-up as to whether he’ll be back in 2023. On the one hand, Morrow had a solid year at linebacker for the Bears, where he improved after moving from MIKE to WILL linebacker after Roquan Smith was traded. On the other hand, if Chicago can find an upgrade at the position — especially given the important of the WILL in Matt Eberflus’ defense — there should be no hesitation to replace Morrow. But with a number of other pressing needs on the roster, the Bears could bring Morrow back for another season alongside undrafted rookie Jack Sanborn.

S DeAndre Houston-Carson

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DeAndre Houston-Carson has been a mainstay on the Bears for the last seven years, where he’s served as a key special teams contributor and reserve at safety. Houston-Carson was one of just a few players Poles re-signed from the 2021 roster. After Eddie Jackson went down for the year, Houston-Carson started the final six games of the season opposite rookie Jaquan Brisker. He totaled 45 tackles, including two for a loss, one interception, one pass deflection and one forced fumble for the season. The expectation is Poles will look to bring back the special teams leader and contributor for 2023.

DT Armon Watts

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Armon Watts was claimed off waivers from the Vikings ahead of the 2022 season. While he started with Chicago as a rotational piece, he eventually won the starting job over Angelo Blackson opposite Justin Jones. Watts didn’t have a fantastic year — as part of the league’s worst defensive line — but he showed enough to be considered as a rotational piece on this defense. The Bears will look to overhaul this defensive line this season, and Watts should warrant a look for the right price.

C Sam Mustipher

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Sam Mustipher has been a point of contention along the offensive line for the last two seasons. Chicago will look to find his replacement this offseason — whether it’s sticking with Lucas Patrick, who missed most of the year due to injury, or finding someone in free agency or the NFL draft. But the Bears should consider re-signing Mustipher, a restricted free agent, to serve as a key depth piece at center. Mustipher has started all but one game at center over the last two seasons — the only game he didn’t start was the one Patrick started before getting hurt in the first quarter, when he was replaced by Mustipher.

FB Khari Blasingame

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There aren’t many pure fullbacks left in the NFL, and Khari Blasingame was a key contributor in the Bears’ top rushing attack in 2022. Blasingame didn’t record a single statistic, but that’s not why he was in Chicago. Blasingame proved to be an effective blocker that helped open lanes for running backs David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert. There’s no reason Blasingame shouldn’t be back with the Bears in 2023.

CB Josh Blackwell

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Josh Blackwell was one of several undrafted free agents who saw significant action for the Bears last year. Blackwell, claimed off waivers ahead of the 2022 season, served as a special teams contributor before he was thrust into the starting lineup in Week 13 as injuries piled up in the secondary. Blackwell did a solid job going against receivers and did a good job taking the ball away. Blackwell is all-but-guaranteed to be back as an exclusive rights free agent, where he’ll serve as a valuable special teamer and backup cornerback.

LB Joe Thomas

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Joe Thomas was a key contributor at linebacker for the Bears last season, which included nine starts. Thomas provided solid depth at linebacker and was more involved than many expected him to be, due to Roquan Smith’s departure and injuries. He did have his moments, including a streak of 22 solo and 32 total tackles in a three-game span. Thomas wouldn’t be a starter in 2023, but he’d be solid depth at linebacker.

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Story originally appeared on Bears Wire