The Bears let the second and third waves of free agency come to them on Thursday. They reached one-year deals with three veterans: running back D’Onta Foreman, tight end Robert Tonyan and defensive end Andrew Billings. Tonyan was the highest ranked of the three in the Athletic’from the top 150 in 90th place. Foreman was next at 123rd. Billings was not ranked.
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How they fit: The Bears are always about a good scheme. That’s important to general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus, and they haven’t wavered. That’s why they targeted and signed linebacker Tremaine Edmunds for their defense and right tackle Nate Davis for their offense.
The same definitely applies to Tonyan and Foreman.
Tonyan’s connections begin with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. They worked together in Green Bay. Tonyan’s best season came in 2020. He caught 52 times on 59 targets for 586 yards and 11 scores. Getsy was in his first year as the Packers’ passing game coordinator that season, along with serving as Aaron Rodgers’ quarterbacks coach.
Foreman, meanwhile, had a better season than David Montgomery last season, rushing for 914 yards and five touchdowns for the Panthers. He is a quick and explosive running back who played in the Titans’ zone scheme before going to Carolina.
Defensively, the Bears needed a better pairing for Justin Jones’ three-technique offense on their line. Enter Billings, a natural single nose technique. The Bears were the NFL’s worst passing team last season, but they were almost as bad against the run. Only the Texans allowed more runs than the Bears. Billings excels against the run.
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Effect in 2023: It’s easy to project roles for all of them. Tonyan should ease the heavy load at tight end Cole Kmet, Foreman should form a capable tandem with Khalil Herbert, and Billings should be part of the Bears’ defensive line rotation, especially on early downs.
If we had to rank them in terms of potential impact, Foreman would be No. 1. He proved last season after the Panthers traded Christian McCaffrey that he can handle a significant workload.
Everything he did last season resulted in career highs. With David Montgomery now a member of the Lions, the Bears needed to bolster their running back spot and did so quickly by adding Foreman and Travis Homer earlier in the week.
History: Foreman’s story is one of resilience, a personal trait that Poles tries to recognize in players. The Texans’ third overall pick in 2017, Foreman suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon while scoring a touchdown against the Cardinals during his rookie season. In 2019, Foreman tore his bicep while playing for the Colts. His career took a turn with the Titans, but his tenure at Tennessee began with a stint on the practice squad.
Much like linebacker TJ Edwards, Tonyan’s addition is another homecoming for a player from the Chicago suburbs. Edwards is from Lake Villa, Ill. Tonyan, a quarterback who set records in high school, hails from nearby McHenry.
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Cap update: In a press conference held earlier Thursday at Halas Hall, Poles described his team’s approach to free agency: “The goal going into this offseason deal was to improve our roster now, but also remain flexible in the future so we can stay healthy, be opportunistic and continue to improve because obviously we know that this process takes some time to get right.”
With plenty of cap space, the Bears were able to sign Tonyan, Foreman and Billings without any problems. These weren’t veteran minimum contracts. According to reports, Foreman has agreed to a $3 million contract. The Bears added Billings on a $3.5 million contract.
Outlook: The Bears have yet to sign a free agent over the age of 30. Foreman is 26 years old, while Tonyan and Billings are 28 years old. Their one-year contracts of course come with an element of proof. But all three still fit the Pole’s approach of adding young, capable players who either have something to prove or more room to develop as players.
(Photo by D’Onta Foreman: Grant Halverson / Getty Images)