T.J. Edwards ‘just wanted to be a part’ of what Chicago Bears are building

GM Ryan Poles bolstered his defense with T.J. Edwards, Tremaine Edmunds

Chicago Bears linebacker T.J. Edwards speaks during a news conference, Thursday, March 16, 2023, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

LAKE FOREST – T.J. Edwards said his parents were in tears.

The Lake Villa native had just got off the phone with his hometown Chicago Bears. He was officially returning home. For the 26-year-old linebacker who once met Brian Urlacher at a meet and greet, it was a dream come true.

The Bears signed the former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker to a three-year, $19.5 million contract. He was one of a handful of additions the Bears made this week. General manager Ryan Poles made a big investment in his defense with the addition of Edwards and Pro Bowl linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.

That duo should be patrolling the middle of the Bears’ defense for several years to come.

“Once that phone rang here, it’s special for sure,” Edwards said. “[I] just wanted to be a part of something that’s going on here, something that you can tell is on the up-and-up. Man, it’s exciting, you can feel the buzz for sure.”

Devin Hester’s touchdown on the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI stands out in Edwards’ mind as his favorite Bears moment growing up.

Edwards once was the quarterback at Lakes Community High School and later played linebacker at Wisconsin. He went undrafted out of Wisconsin in 2019 and landed with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he spent the next four years developing into a top linebacker.

Coming out of Wisconsin, Edwards waited for three long days to hear his name in the draft, but it never came.

“For me, all it did was help burn that hunger into my head, man,” Edwards said. “It’ll never go away.”

Last year, Edwards led the Eagles in tackles, received All-Pro votes and helped Philadelphia reach the Super Bowl. Now, he’s on his second NFL contract, and a big one that guarantees him at least $12 million.

“Honestly, I think I was raised in a way where you have to earn every single thing you get,” Edwards said. “Nothing is given in this world. That’s on the football field and life. The one thing that’s undefeated is hard work. As cliché as it sounds, getting up every day and putting two feet on the ground and getting to the task that you need to is what’s really helped me.”

Edwards brings those experiences with him to Halas Hall in Lake Forest, where the Bears are in the midst of a massive overhaul.

Edwards and Edmunds know the history. They know what it means to be a linebacker for the Bears and the responsibilities that come with it.

“I’m trying to be great, and I want to be coached by people that coach great players and, obviously, want to be in a system and a program that’s had legends,” Edmunds said. “The Chicago Bears are known for their linebackers, and I want to be able to write my story and be that next great linebacker here.”

Five years ago, Edmunds visited Halas Hall as one of the Bears’ priority visits leading up to the 2018 draft. Former GM Ryan Pace wound up drafting Roquan Smith, instead, with the eighth overall pick. That pick easily could’ve been Edmunds.

Five years later, the Bears have a new front office, and Edmunds clearly was a priority in free agency.

Edmunds comes in as a proven leader. In 2019, he became a team captain for the Buffalo Bills at age 21. He’s still only 24 years old and playing at the top of his game. Like Edwards, he received All-Pro votes last season.

“He’s special,” Poles said. “He’s big, he’s long, he fits our scheme. Pumped to have him.”

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.