LAKE FOREST – The NFL is a quarterback league. Even when you’re an NFL defender.
New Bears defensive end DeMarcus Walker had no problem admitting as much. Did a team’s quarterback matter when he was listening to free agent offers from around the league?
“Abso-[expletive]-lutely,” Walker said.
That is the Justin Fields effect. Even for defenders, who are never physically going to be on the field at the same time as Fields. NFL players want to play with the electric young quarterback. Walker played four years in Denver, where there was a revolving door at QB. Then in Houston in 2021 and Tennessee last year.
For the first time in his career, he seems to have a stable QB leading his team’s offense.
“Having a young talented quarterback, who I watched in college and then got to know him and him telling me about myself in the weight room earlier [today], I’m like, ‘OK.’ That shows his professionalism,” Walker said. “I’ve been watching a lot of Bears games this past week. Not just the defense, but trying to know the whole dynamic.”
Walker later added: “Justin Fields is definitely someone that I can’t wait to go to battle with.”
Walker had a career-high seven sacks last season in Tennessee and signed a three-year contract with the Bears. He wasn’t the only new player raving about Fields.
When the Eagles played the Bears in December, much of the defensive focus was centered around Fields. New Bears linebacker T.J. Edwards, who was on the Eagles then, said he knew Fields was fast, but his size was unexpected. Fields broke free for an electric 39-yard run during that game.
“You saw what happened on one of the plays where he got loose,” Edwards said. “So, he’s definitely a special player, for sure, and you can tell just by the way the game was going that it was no quit at all. That’s definitely something that I want to be a part of.”
[ T.J. Edwards ‘just wanted to be a part’ of what Chicago Bears are building ]
The search for a tackle: General manager Ryan Poles indicated that the decision not to pursue free agent tackle Orlando Brown Jr. – one of the top linemen on the market – was more about how he would fit in their offensive system.
“The scheme match is a big deal there,” Poles said.
The Bears reportedly were interested in free agent right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who ended up signing with Denver on a five-year, $87.5 million contract. Brown signed with Cincinnati for four years, $64 million. Both of those are big price tags.
The Bears haven’t found a right tackle in free agency, and could be forced to look for one in the draft.
“It comes down to value and where we felt comfortable with our research, our evaluations, analytics, all of that,” Poles said. “There was a certain point where we were comfortable with based on the value and the evaluation that we had. And if it surpassed that, we were OK with moving on.”
Jalen Carter update: Poles was on hand Wednesday to watch Georgia’s pro day in Athens, Georgia, where potential top draft pick Jalen Carter worked out.
Two weeks ago at the NFL Combine, Carter was charged with two misdemeanors stemming from a January fatal crash that killed one of his Georgia teammates and a team staff member. Carter has pleaded no contest to the chargers, according to his lawyer on Thursday, indicating he will face no jail time.
But the optics weren’t good Wednesday in Athens. Carter showed up for his Pro Day nine pounds heavier than he was at the combine two weeks earlier. He participated in position drills only, no athletic testing, and couldn’t finish the drills because of cramps.
Poles on Thursday said the Bears intend to have Carter in for one of their 30 player visits this spring. They have not made any final decisions on whether they might or might not draft him. Two weeks ago, Carter widely was viewed as a top-five pick. Now, it’s entirely possible he could still be available at No. 9 overall when the Bears are on the clock.
“Like the combine, it’s a collection of information,” Poles said of attending Carter’s pro day. “We got some there. We got more at the pro day. We’ll bring him [in], talk to him and get to know him even better. Some point in mid-April, we’ll sit down and see how we want to handle it.”