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 tackle Andrew Billings. Tonyan was the highest ranked of the three in the The athletic’s top 150 at No. 90. Foreman was next at No. 123. Billings was not ranked.
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How they fit: At the Bears, it’s always about schedule adjustment. That means something 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 guard Nate Davis for their offense.
The same is certainly true of Tonyan and Foreman.
Tonyan’s connections start with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. They worked together in Green Bay. Tonyan’s best season came in 2020. He made 52 catches on 59 targets for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. Getsy was in his first year as the Packers’ passing game coordinator that season, along with being their quarterbacks coach for Aaron Rodgers.
Foreman, meanwhile, had a better season than David Montgomery did last season, rushing for 914 yards and five touchdowns for the Panthers. He is a quick and explosive back who played in the Titans’ run-heavy zone scheme before going to Carolina.
On defense, the Bears needed a better pairing for three-technique tackle Justin Jones on their line. Enter Billings, a natural one-tech/nose tackle. The Bears were the NFL’s worst pass-rushing team last season, but they were nearly as bad against the run. Only the Texans allowed more rushing yards than the Bears. Billings excels against the run.
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2023 effect: It is easy to project roles for all of them. Tonyan should ease the heavy load on 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 were 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 could 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 backs room and did so quickly by adding Foreman and Travis Homer earlier this week.
History: Foreman’s story is about resilience, a personal trait that the Poles try to identify in players. A third-round pick by the Texans in 2017, Foreman suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon while scoring a touchdown against the Cardinals during his rookie season. In 2019, Foreman tore his biceps while with the Colts. His career turned with the Titans, but his tenure in Tennessee began with a stint on the practice squad.
Like linebacker TJ Edwards, Tonyan’s addition is another homecoming for a player from the Chicago suburbs. Edwards is from Lake Villa, Illinois. Tonyan, a record-setting high school quarterback, is from nearby McHenry.
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Cap Update: In a press conference earlier Thursday at Halas Hall, Polak encapsulated his team’s approach to free agency: “The goal of this offseason deal was to improve our roster now, but also stay flexible in the future so we can stay healthy, opportunistic and continue to be better because of course we know this process takes some time to do it the right way.”
With ample cap space, the Bears were able to sign Tonyan, Foreman, and Billings without issue. They weren’t veteran minimum deals. According to reports, Foreman agreed to a $3 million deal. The Bears added Billings with a $3.5 million contract.
Outlook: The Bears have yet to sign a free agent older than 30. Foreman is 26, while Tonyan and Billings are both 28. Their one-year contracts obviously come with a proof-of-concept element. But all three still fit the Poles’ approach of adding young, skilled players with either something to prove or more room to develop as players.
(Photo by D’Onta Foreman: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)