Live updates: Bears 2022 free agency news and notes

Chicago Bears new general manager Ryan Poles speaks during a news conference, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

NFL free agency is well underway.

At 3 p.m. Wednesday, the NFL’s new league year began. Free agents can now sign contracts with new teams. Trades discussed over the previous weeks can become official.

Stay right here all week long with Shaw Local as NFL free agency news breaks. This page will be updated with the latest news.

Bears sign former Titans safety Dane Cruikshank, per his agent

The Bears are expected to sign former Tennessee Titans safety Dane Cruikshank, according to a Twitter post by his agent David Canter.

Cruikshank, 26, was a 2018 fifth-round draft pick by the Titans. He played the past four seasons in Tennessee. He has appeared in 44 career regular season games, making four starts, and four postseason games. He played in 14 games last season, including all four of his career starts. He totaled 43 combined tackles with one pass defended and one forced fumble in 2021. He has one interception in his career, which came in 2020.

The Bears are in need of a starting safety and depth at the position. Former Bears safety Tashaun Gipson, who played for the team during the past two seasons, is currently a free agent. Backup safety Deon Bush has already left Chicago via free agency, electing to sign a contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Saints expected to sign former Bears QB Andy Dalton; Bears make Siemian signing official

Former Bears quarterback Andy Dalton has found a new home. The 34-year-old QB will sign a one-year contract with the New Orleans Saints, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The deal is worth $3 million in guaranteed money, with a chance to reach $6 million.

Dalton played one season in Chicago. He was among the biggest moves the Bears made last offseason under former general manager Ryan Pace. The team signed Dalton to a one-year, $10 million contract in March 2021.

Dalton began the 2021 season as the starting quarterback in Chicago, but was later replaced by rookie QB Justin Fields. In his lone season with the Bears, Dalton appeared in eight games, making six starts. The team went 3-3 in his six starts. He completed 63.1% of his passes and threw for 1,515 yards with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions.

He goes to a Saints team that recently made a push to trade for former Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. When Watson instead went to the Browns, the Saints re-signed quarterback Jameis Winston, who has been with the Saints since 2020. A Winston and Dalton pairing gives the Saints two quarterbacks with NFL starting experience.

Meanwhile, the Bears made quarterback Trevor Siemian’s signing official. Siemian, 30, will serve as the backup quarterback to Fields. His deal is a two-year contract, according to the Bears. Siemian’s signing had been widely reported last week.

“In terms of a guy who has been behind Peyton [Manning] and [Drew] Brees, there’s also a wealth of knowledge he can bring to Justin,” Bears general manager Ryan Poles said Monday at the NFL owners meetings in Florida.

Bills match Bears’ offer for OL Ryan Bates

Bills offensive lineman Ryan Bates will remain in Buffalo. The Bills matched the Bears’ offer for the restricted free agent Monday. The Bills had the rights to match any offer from an outside team.

The Bears offered Bates a contract Thursday. The 25-year-old lineman also reportedly visited with the Vikings and Patriots in recent weeks.

Former Bears DB Xavier Crawford to sign with Jaguars

Former Bears defensive back Xavier Crawford is expected to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars, per a report from the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Crawford played the past two seasons with the Bears. He appeared in 13 games last season, making two starts. The 26-year-old was originally a 2019 sixth-round draft pick of the Houston Texans. He spent the 2019 season with Houston and Miami before making his way to Chicago in 2020.

Crawford will reunite with former Bears secondary coach Deshea Townsend, who is now the defensive passing game coordinator and cornerbacks coach in Jacksonville.

Offensive lineman Ryan Bates to sign offer sheet from Bears

Buffalo Bills restricted free agent offensive lineman Ryan Bates plans to sign an offer sheet with the Bears, according to multiple reports.

As a restricted free agent, Bates can field contract offers from other teams, but the Bills have the option to match any offer from another team. They now have five days to match the Bears’ offer. Bates, 25, also reportedly visited with the Vikings and Patriots.

Bears sign former Vikings lineman Dakota Dozier

The Bears added to their offensive line Wednesday, signing free agent guard Dakota Dozier to a one-year contract. Dozier, 30, has appeared in 76 career games, including 27 starts, over seven NFL seasons. He played the past three seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.

At 6-foot-4, 312 pounds, Dozier will give the Bears some needed depth on an offensive line that has seen a number of players leave in free agency. Dozier spent his first four NFL seasons with the New York Jets after they selected him with a 2014 fourth-round draft pick.

Last season in Minnesota, Dozier appeared in six games, playing exclusively on special teams. A year earlier in 2020, Dozier started all 16 games at left guard and played every offensive snap the entire season. Prior to 2020, he was primarily a backup who earned some spot starts here and there.

With former Bears starting right guard James Daniels leaving via free agency for Pittsburgh, the team has an opening for a starting guard. While Dozier might not be an ideal NFL starter – there’s a reason he was relegated to special teams in 2021 – he could probably fill the void if needed.

Former Bears safety Deon Bush heads to Kansas City

Longtime Bears safety Deon Bush is leaving Chicago after six seasons. Bush, 28, is heading to the Kansas City Chiefs, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Bears drafted Bush with a fourth-round pick in 2016. He appeared in 79 regular season games with the team over six years, making 12 starts. He totaled 89 combined tackles, three interceptions and 10 passes defended over his Bears career. Last season, he appeared in 14 games, making four starts.

He heads to a Chiefs team that is reimagining its safety position. The Chiefs let Tyrann Mathieu walk in free agency and elected to sign free agent safety Justin Reid to a three-year, $31.5 million contract. Bush has proven he can be a solid backup safety in the NFL.

Bears sign fullback Khari Blasingame

The Bears signed 25-year-old fullback Khari Blasingame on Tuesday. Blasingame spent the past three seasons with the Tennessee Titans. The deal is a one-year contract, according to the Bears.

Blasingame appeared in 32 games over three seasons in Tennessee, making 13 starts. He contributed on both offense and special teams. He touched the ball infrequently on offense. In three years, he totaled three carries for six yards and 10 receptions for 97 yards.

The Bears did not typically use a fullback under former head coach Matt Nagy. Former fullback Michael Burton played for the Bears during Nagy’s first season in 2018. Ever since Burton left in free agency during the following offseason, the Bears haven’t regularly had a fullback on the 53-man roster.

Bears expected to sign former Colts’ DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, per report

The Bears made another addition to their defensive line, signing former Colts’ defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The contract is a two-year, $10 million deal.

Muhammad, 26, started all 17 games for the Colts last season, recording 48 total tackles, six sacks, seven tackles for loss and 13 QB hits. Last season was his first full season as a starter.

Muhammad has plenty of experience in head coach Matt Eberflus’ system. A former New Orleans Saints’ sixth-round draft pick in 2017, Muhammad spent one season in New Orleans before being waived in 2018 and picked up by the Colts. In four years in Indianapolis, he totaled 11 sacks and 22 tackles for loss.

With Larry Ogunjobi out, Bears reportedly set to sign DT Justin Jones

Less than an hour after announcing that defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi had failed his physical and would not sign with the team, the Bears appear to have already found a replacement. The team is signing defensive tackle Justin Jones to a two-year contract, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Folwer.

Jones, 25, played the last four seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers. He appeared in 11 games last season, missing several games due to a calf injury, and totaled 37 combined tackles, three sacks, and five tackles for loss.

At 6-foot-3, 309 pounds, Jones is the right size to play the “3-technique” position that Ogunjobi was expected to play on the defensive line. The 3-technique is usually a little bit lighter and faster than a traditional defensive lineman.

Bears free agent signing Larry Ogunjobi fails physical, will not sign

Bears free agent defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi has failed his physical and will not sign with the Bears on Friday, according to the team.

Ogunjobi and the Bears had reportedly agreed to a three-year contract worth a guaranteed $26.35 million and worth up to $40.5 million.

Ogunjobi, 27, has played five seasons in the NFL, including last year with the Cincinnati Bengals. The defensive tackle suffered an ankle injury in the Bengals’ first playoff game in January, which required surgery and ended his season.

“Larry Ogunjobi embodies everything we are looking for in a Bear,” Bears general manager Ryan Poles said in a statement released by the team. “He is a special person and player. During the league’s negotiating window earlier this week, we agreed to terms with him, subject to him passing a physical here. After a standard and thorough physical and medical review with Larry yesterday afternoon, our medical team deemed him to have failed his physical and therefore, unfortunately, we are not signing him today. This is difficult and it is emotional for everyone involved, but ultimately is what is in the best interest of protecting the Chicago Bears.”

Bears expected to sign WRs Equanimeous St. Brown, Byron Pringle

The Bears are eyeing two free agent receivers, according to multiple reports: Equanimeous St. Brown and Byron Pringle.

St. Brown, 25, spent the past four seasons with the Green Bay Packers. A 2018 sixth-round draft pick, St. Brown appeared in 37 games for the Packers, including 10 starts, while missing the entire 2019 due to an ankle injury. His best year was his rookie season in 2018, when he caught 36 passes for 328 yards.

In 2021, St. Brown played in 13 games and totaled nine receptions for 98 yards. He also played a significant number of snaps on special teams. He played college ball at Notre Dame and he is the brother of Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Pringle, 28, has been with the Kansas City Chiefs since 2018. He went undrafted in 2018 out of Kansas State. The 2021 season was his most productive. He caught 42 passes for 568 yards and five touchdowns for the Chiefs. In three years on the active roster, Pringle appeared in 46 games.

General manager Ryan Poles’ Kansas City connections appear to have helped land a target for quarterback Justin Fields. Pringle is signing a one-year, $6 million contract with $4 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Former Bears Damien Williams, Alex Bars sign elsewhere

Former Bears running back Damien Williams is expected to sign a one-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. With former Bears general manager Ryan Pace now working in Atlanta, the Falcons signed three former Bears on Thursday.

Williams spent one season in Chicago as a change-of-pace running back behind starter David Montgomery. Williams rushed 40 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns in 2021.

Meanwhile, former Bears offensive lineman Alex Bars has signed with the Las Vegas Raiders. Bars signed with the Bears as an undrafted rookie in 2019 and spent three seasons with the team.

He served as a backup lineman and sometimes as a sixth offensive lineman for the team in 2021. Bars appeared in 38 games for the Bears over three seasons.

Allen Robinson to sign with Rams, per reports

Allen Robinson is moving on. The former Bears receiver is signing a three-year contract with the Los Angeles Rams, according to multiple reports. ESPN and the NFL Network are both reporting a deal has been agreed to.

Robinson’s new deal is worth a guaranteed $30.7 million and worth up to $46.5 million, according to the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Robinson, 28, played four seasons in Chicago, originally signing a three-year, $42 million contract in 2018. The Bears franchise tagged Robinson in 2021 and paid him about $17.8 million on the one-year franchise tag.

He was the Bears’ top offensive weapon for most of his time in Chicago. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2019 and 2020. His production slipped in 2021 with rookie quarterback Justin Fields taking over. Robinson caught 38 passes for 410 yards and one touchdown last season.

With his new contract, the Rams clearly believe that Robinson’s dip in production said more about the Bears’ offense than it did about Robinson. He goes to a contender fresh off a Super Bowl victory. With receiver Odell Beckham Jr. hitting free agency, Robinson fills a clear need at receiver for the Rams, where he will team up with Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp.

Former Bears OT Elijah Wilkinson, DB Teez Tabor sign with Atlanta

After one year in Chicago, former Bears offensive tackle Elijah Wilkinson is signing with the Atlanta Falcons, according to a post on his Instagram account.

Wilkinson played in 13 games with the Bears in 2021, including one start. Most of his snaps came on special teams. The five-year NFL veteran spent the first four seasons of his career with the Denver Broncos.

Former Bears’ defensive back Teez Tabor also signed with the Falcons. He spent half of 2021 on the Bears’ practice squad before being called up to the 53-man roster in October. Tabor appeared in six games with one start for the Bears in 2021. He is a former Detroit Lions second-round draft pick.

Punter Pat O’Donnell heads to rival Packers

Longtime Bears punter Pat O’Donnell is heading north. The Bears’ 2014 sixth-round draft pick is set to sign a new deal with the Green Bay Packers, according to a report from the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. The Packers are hard at work fixing a special teams unit that let it down during the postseason.

O’Donnell was the longest-tenured Bears player and the only player remaining from the 2014 draft class. The new longest-tenured Bear is now long snapper Patrick Scales, who signed with the team as a free agent in November 2015. Scales just agreed to a new one-year extension with the team on Wednesday.

New league year begins, Bears make several moves official

At 3 p.m. Wednesday, the NFL’s new league year officially began. Free agent players can now put pen to paper on new contracts. Previously agreed to trades can become official.

The Bears announced several moves, which had previously been reported but were not official. The Bears and Chargers made the trade for Khalil Mack official. They officially released running back Tarik Cohen and linebacker Danny Trevathan.

The Bears announced they have signed defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, offensive lineman Lucas Patrick and linebacker Nicholas Morrow.

Long snapper Patrick Scales signs one-year extension with Bears

The Bears announced a one-year extension for long snapper Patrick Scales. Scales has been with the team since 2015 and remains one of the longest-tenured Bears.

Former Bears cornerback Artie Burns to sign with Seattle

Former Bears cornerback Artie Burns is expected to sign with the Seattle Seahawks, per a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday. Burns will sign a one-year, $2 million contract and will once again team up with former Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai.

Burns appeared in 11 games for the Bears last season, including six starts. The team started Kindle Vildor at cornerback to begin the season, but when the coaching staff benched Vildor late in the year, Burns benefitted. He had 23 total tackles and six passes defended.

Burns, 26, originally signed with the Bears in 2020. He tore his ACL in training camp before the 2020 season and missed a whole year before returning to the field in 2021. He is a former Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round draft pick.

Desai is taking on an associate head coaching position with Pete Carroll in Seattle. He specializes in the 3-4 defense and, in particular, the secondary. Bringing in Burns gives Desai a defensive back who he is quite familiar with.

Burns’ departure leaves the Bears with Jaylon Johnson, Duke Shelley and Vildor as the three most experienced cornerbacks on the roster. Thomas Graham Jr. saw some game action last season.

Jakeem Grant, Bilal Nichols sign elsewhere

One of only two Bears Pro Bowl performers in 2021 is leaving town. Bears return specialist Jakeem Grant is expected to sign a contract with the Cleveland Browns, according to a report from the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Grant’s deal is reportedly for three years and up to $13.8 million. The Bears traded a 2023 sixth-round draft pick to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for Grant in October. Listed as a wide receiver, Grant played sparingly on offense. He did, however, average 13.9 yards per punt return for the Bears, including a team-record 97 yard punt return touchdown against the Packers at Lambeau Field in December.

Grant earned his first Pro Bowl appearance and second-team All-Pro honors in 2021. Pass rusher Robert Quinn, who remains under contract, was the Bears’ other Pro Bowler last season.

Also leaving the team is defensive tackle Bilal Nichols, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Nichols is expected to sign a two-year, $11 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders, with $9 million guaranteed. A 2018 fifth-round draft pick, Nichols worked his way into a starting role on the defensive line. He played in all 16 games in 2020 and all 17 in 2021, making 31 starts over those two seasons. Last season, Nichols recorded five tackles for loss, three sacks and two fumble recoveries.

Nichols’ departure might have more to do with the Bears’ new scheme than his abilities as a player. The Bears are looking for specific types of linemen on their defensive front. They already found their “3-technique” in free agent Larry Ogunjobi. They still need someone to play the nose tackle spot.

With Nichols and guard James Daniels walking in free agency, Roquan Smith is now the only Bears player drafted in 2018 who remains with the team.

Green Bay Packers center Lucas Patrick in action during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 19, 2021 in Baltimore.

Bears expected to sign former Packers interior lineman Lucas Patrick

The Bears have bolstered their offensive line. They agreed to terms with former Green Bay Packers interior lineman Lucas Patrick.

The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first reported the deal Tuesday night. It’s reportedly a two-year, $8 million contract with $4 million fully guaranteed in 2022.

Patrick, 28, has started 28 games over the last two seasons. At various times, he has started at left guard, right guard and center. He appeared in all 17 games last season and all 16 games in 2020 for the Packers. Patrick originally signed with the Packers after going undrafted out of Duke in 2016. He spent 2016 on the practice squad before making the active roster a year later.

The Bears have added some needed depth on the offensive line after losing guard James Daniels earlier in the day. Daniels, a 2018 second-round draft pick by the Bears, is leaving to join the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to reports.

Patrick will be reunited with Luke Getsy, the Bears offensive coordinator and former Packers quarterbacks coach. Patrick’s versatility could be valuable for the Bears. The 6-foot-3, 313-pound lineman can play multiple spots on the line.

Bears reportedly agree to terms with linebacker Nicholas Morrow

The Bears found a linebacker to pair with Roquan Smith in head coach Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 system. The Bears have agreed to a deal with former Raiders linebacker Nicholas Morrow, according to multiple reports Tuesday night.

Morrow, 26, has been with the Raiders since 2017. He missed the entire 2021 season due to an ankle injury. Prior to that he had missed only two games over the previous four seasons. Morrow originally signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of Division III Greenville University in 2017.

Morrow had a career-best 78 combined tackles when he last saw the field in 2020. He added three sacks, nine passes defended, one interception and one forced fumble.

Former Bears guard James Daniels agrees to deal with Steelers

Former Bears guard James Daniels is reportedly set to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers on a three-year, $26.5 million contract, per a report from the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

The Bears drafted Daniels with a second-round pick (39th overall) in 2018. He spent four seasons with the Bears, playing both guard and center at various times.

After suffering a pectoral injury in 2020 that cut his season short after five games, Daniels started at right guard all 17 games for the Bears in 2021. His departure leaves a hole on the Bears’ offensive line at right guard. He will reunite with former Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky in Pittsburgh.

Recapping Monday’s biggest deals

As always, the deals came quickly once the legal tampering period opened Monday. Here are some of the top signings across the NFL Monday. All of these signings are according to reports by national outlets.

The Jaguars went on the biggest spending spree, which included deals for tight end Evan Engram, receiver Christian Kirk, guard Brandon Scherff and linebacker Foye Oluokun, among others. In Cincinnati, Joe Burrow is losing a weapon. Former Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah is signing with the Jets on a three-year deal. Cincinnati did, however, bolster the offensive line by signing former Bucs guard Alex Cappa to a four-year contract. With Tom Brady now out of retirement, the Bucs re-signed center Ryan Jensen to a three-year deal. Also at center, the Rams re-signed Illinois native Brian Allen for three more years.

The Chiefs signed safety Justin Reid to replace departed safety Tyrann Mathieu. Also in the AFC West, the Chargers bolstered their secondary with J.C. Jackson on a five-year, $82.5 million deal.

Arizona gave running back James Conner a three-year, $21 million deal and also signed tight end Zach Ertz to a three-year deal.

In quarterback news, former Bears QB Mitch Trubisky heads to the Steelers on a two-year deal. Former Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will reportedly become Tua Tagovailoa’s backup in Miami.

In the NFC North, the Lions signed former Jaguars receiver D.J. Chark to a one-year contract. The Packers gave linebacker Preston Smith a four-year extension. Green Bay also cut Za’Darius Smith to clear cap space. Star receiver Davante Adams is reportedly uninterested in playing on a one-year franchise tag deal. The Vikings had a relatively quiet day, but agreed to an extension with quarterback Kirk Cousins. The deal adds one more year to Cousins’ contract, which had been entering its final season, and frees up additional cap space immediately.

Bears expected to sign DT Larry Ogunjobi

With Eddie Goldman released and Bilal Nichols hitting free agency, the Bears had a hole on the defensive line. They have now solidified that hole by agreeing to a deal with former Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, according to multiple reports.

The agreement is for a three-year, $40.5 million contract with $26.35 million guaranteed, per reports.

Ogunjobi, 27, has played five seasons in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns drafted him with a 2017 third-round pick and he spent four seasons in Cleveland. He then signed a one-year contract with the Bengals last year. He is coming off his best season. In 2021, he had 49 combined tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks for the Bengals.

Ogunjobi suffered a foot injury during the Bengals’ Wild Card round playoff victory over Las Vegas. He sat out the remainder of the postseason and the injury required surgery.

Former Bears QB Mitch Trubisky to sign with Steelers

With Ben Roethlisberger now retired, the Pittsburgh Steelers were in need of a new quarterback this offseason. They found him Monday. Former Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky is expected to sign with the Steelers.

The two sides have agreed on a two-year contract, according to the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.

Trubisky spent last season as the backup quarterback behind Buffalo Bills starter Josh Allen. He appeared in only six games with eight pass attempts.

Under former general manager Ryan Pace, the Bears drafted Trubisky with the second-overall pick in the 2017 draft. He played four seasons in Chicago before the Bears released him last year. Trubisky started 50 games for the Bears over four seasons, leading the team to two playoff appearances.

What are the Bears looking for in free agency?

Last week was eventful for the Bears. General manager Ryan Poles traded Pro Bowl pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chargers in exchange for draft picks on Thursday. Then on Friday, he released running back Tarik Cohen as well as defensive tackle Eddie Goldman.

In order to build his own team, Poles is first going about dismantling the team Ryan Pace built. The trades and cuts were just the opening salvos for what figures to be a big week at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

So what exactly are the Bears looking for in free agency? Well, they have many needs. The most pressing is at wide receiver, where Darnell Mooney is the only returning player with any real NFL experience. Quarterback Justin Fields needs playmakers. Look for the team to be involved with at least one big-name wide receiver.

Additionally, the Bears are in need of both a starting cornerback and a safety. They might also be in the market for an offensive tackle after playing out the end of last season with two rookies playing the tackle positions. Starting right guard James Daniels is a free agent, leaving a hole at guard as well.

What is Ryan Poles strategy?

Poles has kept fans guessing since he took over as general manager. But trading Mack on Thursday signaled that this is going to be a long-term project, not a quick fix, at Halas Hall.

Creating salary cap flexibility in 2023 and beyond has clearly become a priority for Poles.

Trading Mack saved about $6 million against the salary cap in 2022. The big savings, however, come next year, when getting Mack’s contract off the books frees up $28.5 million in cap space. Cutting Goldman saves at least $6.6 million in 2022, but also frees up the $8.3 million base salary he was due in 2023. Cutting Cohen saves $2.25 million this year, and more than $5 million in 2023.

With all those moves combined, the Bears currently have only 20 players under contract in 2023, eating up only $86 million in cap space and leaving $138 million in available space.

That gives Poles nearly unlimited possibilities. Expect the Bears to be active in free agency.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.