Hub Arkush: Fixing the Bears' pass rush should be Ryan Poles' next priority

  • Yannick Ngakoue is the best pass rush option for the Bears on the free agent market.

    Yannick Ngakoue is the best pass rush option for the Bears on the free agent market. Associated Press

Updated 3/21/2023 8:37 PM

At the end of the 2022 season, the Bears' greatest needs were clearly wide receivers, pass rushers and defensive linemen, not necessarily in that order.

With the addition of wide receiver D.J. Moore via trade and defensive tackle Andrew Billings and defensive end DeMarcus Walker via free agency, there is no question pass rushers are now the main priority.


Free agent linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards are excellent additions to the linebacker room. Add Walker, who is coming off a career-best 7-sack season with the Titans, and there is hope the trio can upgrade the rush.

But none are proven pass rushers and finding at least one -- if not a couple -- double-digit sack guys is a must to improve the Bears' defense.

It is also, however, a time to be careful and remember this is a complete rebuild. It can't be done in one season and overreacting -- or even worse, overspending -- right now would be a huge mistake.

General manager Ryan Poles appears to have a solid plan: focus on exciting young talent and don't overspend. There is much work to be done and now is not the time to overpay at any position. The rebuild is going to take at least two seasons and quite possibly three. Now is the time to focus on building for the future through the draft.

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But that is not to say a quality pass rusher on a one- or two-year free agent deal shouldn't be out of the question. Poles can land a veteran while finding the future of the position in the first round.

The best veteran free agent pass rushers still on the market are Yannick Ngakoue, Frank Clark, Leonard Floyd and Jadeveon Clowney.

None are looking for short-term deals, and the last three are each 30-year-old players who are good-but-not-great sack artists. Clark is probably the most realistic option, although his sack totals have fallen off the last three seasons. Still, he would bring a brand new Super Bowl ring to the room.

Ngakoue is the best option. He is still just 28 and is the most productive of this class with 65 career sacks in three seasons, including 10 and 9½ the last two seasons. He does, however, come with one real question mark: Why has the best pass rusher in this group played for four different teams over the last four seasons?

The good news for the Bears is defensive line -- and in particular edge rusher -- are the strongest positions of the first two rounds of this year's draft.


The best this draft class has to offer is Alabama's Will Anderson. A close second is Texas Tech's Tyree Wilson, who has been climbing up draft boards lately, while Georgia's Jalen Carter continues to drop but just may be too good to let pass.

None of the three are likely to still be available at No. 9 when the Bears pick, although Wilson could slip. With the wealth of options at the position, the Bears must again focus on the big picture and not give up high draft picks to move up unless they believe Anderson can be the next Richard Dent.

Don't forget, however, that Dent was an eighth-round draft choice (203rd overall).

The ninth overall pick would probably be too rich for any of the other first-round prospects, but the list includes Iowa's Lukas Van Ness, Georgia's Nolan Smith, Clemson's Myles Murphy, Iowa State's Will McDonald, Georgia Tech's Keion White and Kansas State's Felix Anudike-Uzomah.

Trading down and possibly adding more second- and third-round picks -- or perhaps even another first-round pick next season -- is worth considering. Or McDonald, White or Anudike-Uzomah could even slip to pick 53 or 61 in the second round.

Poles has done an excellent job so far of adding interesting young talent while staying patient. He has an opportunity to continue that plan and fix his lack of pass-rush talent at the same time.

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