The new league year for the NFL doesn't start until March 13th, 2020. At this time, front offices are busy evaluating draft prospects, upcoming free agents, and their own players set to hit free agency. The NFL draft isn't until April 23rd, and at this time, the only thing franchises are allowed to do is re-sign their own players.
The Bears have 15 unrestricted free agents (UFA's) that are hitting the open market this season. UFA's are players that the Bears have no leverage with and can lose to free agency without any compensation. Fans seemingly wouldn't mind seeing many of these players walk in free agency, but there are a few that would hurt to see wearing a different uniform. The three most important Bears players set to be free agents are all inside linebackers.
Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski, and Kevin Pierre-Louis are the three inside linebackers set to become UFA's on March 13th. If all three players walk in free agency, the strongest and deepest unit from 2019 will be left depleted. The Bears will need to re-sign at least one of the three, so I took the question to Twitter for a fan vote.
It was a close battle between Nick Kwiatkoski and Danny Trevathan, but Kwiat ended up taking the vote by a two percent margin. There are a few things to consider here. The poll posed the question with the hypothetical idea of the three linebackers all earning the same contract. This has a lot to do with the decision. Kwiatkoski is the youngest and has the most upside, while Danny Trevathan has been a fan favorite for a few years now. Kevin Pierre-Louis played admirably after Roquan Smith's injury, but he isn't going to be compensated like the other two.
So how would the vote change if the market values were part of the equation? It looks like Kwiatkoski will be the highest earner of the three, but ILB market values still haven't been assigned. Premier inside linebackers are the only ones that really cash in during free agency.
In 2019, C.J. Mosley signed a contract worth $17 million per year and Kwon Alexander signed one worth $13.5 million annually. Beyond those two players, there was a steep drop off. I don't think Kwiatkoski would demand a contract of a premier ILB, but he is going to be a highly sought after UFA. Kwiatkoski is the only player that would need to be re-signed before the new league year begins. If he hits the open market, he is good as gone.
My biggest fear is that the Green Bay Packers will poach one of the Bears' inside linebackers. They have a need at the position, and it doesn't look like Blake Martinez will be back. Green Bay also offered Kyle Fuller a contract during his transition tag in 2018 and paid Adrain Amos during free agency in 2019. The last thing Bears fans want to see is another one of our own go to the Packers. This is something I will be on high alert for this offseason.
How terrible would it be to see Nick Kwiatkoski in green and yellow? Just imagine him coming through our depleted offensive line on a stunt and blowing David Montgomery up before eating Mitchell Trubisky. I cannot get that image out of my head.